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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 327470, 9 pages
Review Article

T Helper Lymphocyte Subsets and Plasticity in Autoimmunity and Cancer: An Overview

1Department of Pediatric Nephrology and Growth and Regeneration, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and University Hospitals Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
2Laboratory of Angiopathology, Institute for General Pathology and Pathophysiology, Moscow 125315, Russia
3Institute for Atherosclerosis Research, Skolkovo Innovative Center, Moscow 121609, Russia
4Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow 119991, Russia

Received 19 March 2015; Revised 16 May 2015; Accepted 24 May 2015

Academic Editor: Bernard Bonnotte

Copyright © 2015 Ekaterina A. Ivanova and Alexander N. Orekhov. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In response to cytokine signalling and other factors, CD4-positive T lymphocytes differentiate into distinct populations that are characterized by the production of certain cytokines and are controlled by different master transcription factors. The spectrum of such populations, which was initially limited to Th1 and Th2 subsets, is currently broadened to include Th17 and Treg subsets, as well as a number of less studied subtypes, such as Tfh, Th9, and Th22. Although these subsets appear to be relatively stable, certain plasticity exists that allows for transition between the subsets and formation of hybrid transition forms. This provides the immune system flexibility needed for adequate response to pathogens but, at the same time, can play a role in the pathogenic processes in cases of deregulation. In this review, we will discuss the properties of T lymphocyte subsets and their plasticity, as well as its implications for cancer and autoimmune diseases.