SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines induce robust anti-spike (S) antibody and CD4+ T cell responses. It is not yet clear whether vaccine-induced follicular helper CD4+ T (TFH) cell responses contribute to this outstanding immunogenicity. Using fine-needle aspiration of draining axillary lymph nodes from individuals who received the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine, we evaluated the T cell receptor sequences and phenotype of lymph node TFH. Mining of the responding TFH T cell receptor repertoire revealed a strikingly immunodominant HLA-DPB104-restricted response to S167–180 in individuals with this allele, which is among the most common HLA alleles in humans. Paired blood and lymph node specimens show that while circulating S-specific TFH cells peak one week after the second immunization, S-specific TFH persist at nearly constant frequencies for at least six months. Collectively, our results underscore the key role that robust TFH cell responses play in establishing long-term immunity by this efficacious human vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-613.e15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 17 2022


  • CD4 T cell
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T follicular helper cell
  • TCR repertoire
  • human immunology
  • lymph node
  • mRNA vaccination


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