A subset of human follicular helper T cells (TFH) cells expresses CD57 for which no distinct function has been identified. We show that CD57+ TFH cells are universally PD-1hi, but compared to their CD57-PD-1hi counterparts, express little IL-21 or IL-10 among others. Instead, CD57 expression on TFH cells marks cytotoxicity transcriptional signatures that translate into only a weak cytotoxic phenotype. Similarly, circulating PD-1+ CD57+ CD4+ T cells make less cytokine than their CD57-PD-1+ counterparts, but have a prominent cytotoxic phenotype. By analysis of responses to STAT3-dependent cytokines and cells from patients with gain-or loss-of-function STAT3 mutations, we show that CD4+ T cell cytotoxicity is STAT3-dependent. TFH formation also requires STAT3, but paradoxically, once formed, PD-1hi cells become unresponsive to STAT3. These findings suggest that changes in blood and germinal center cytotoxicity might be affected by changes in STAT3 signaling, or modulation of PD-1 by therapy.
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