Over recent years, extensive phenotypic variability and plasticity have been revealed among the T-helper cells of the mammalian adaptive immune system, even within clonal lineages of identical antigen specificity. This challenges the conventional view that T-helper cells assort into functionally distinct subsets following differential instruction by the innate immune system. We argue that the adaptive value of coping with uncertainty can reconcile the ‘instructed subset’ framework with T-helper variability and plasticity. However, we also suggest that T-helper cells might better be understood as agile swarms engaged in collective decision-making to promote host fitness. With rigorous testing, the ‘agile swarms’ framework may illuminate how variable and plastic individual T-helper cells interact to create coherent immunity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Biology