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A dysregulated immune response against coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) plays a critical role in the outcome of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). A significant increase in circulating plasmablasts is characteristic of COVID-19 though the underlying mechanisms and its prognostic implications are not known. Here, we demonstrate that in the acute phase of COVID-19, activated PD-1highCXCR5-CD4+ T cells, peripheral helper T cells, (Tph) are significantly increased and promote inflammatory tissue-homing plasmablasts in patients with stable but not severe COVID-19. Analysis of scRNA-seq data revealed that plasmablasts in stable patients express higher levels of tissue-homing receptors including CXCR3. The increased Tph cells exhibited "B cell help" signatures similar to that of circulating T follicular helper (cTfh) cells and promoted B cell differentiation in vitro. Compared with cTfh cells, Tph cells produced more IFN{gamma}, inducing tissue-homing chemokine receptors on plasmablasts. Finally, expansion of activated Tph cells was correlated with the frequency of CXCR3+ plasmablasts in the acute phase of patients with stable disease. Our results demonstrate a novel role for Tph cells in acute viral immunity by inducing ectopic, antibody secreting plasmablasts.

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