T cells have two major roles in immune defense. Regulatory T cells are essential for orchestrating the response of an elaborate system of different types of immune cells.
Helper T cells, for example, also known as CD4 positive T cells (CD4+ T cells), alert B cells to start making antibodies; they also can activate other T cells and immune system scavenger cells called macrophages and influence which type of antibody is produced.
Certain T cells, called CD8 positive T cells (CD8+ T cells), can become killer cells that attack and destroy infected cells. The killer T cells are also called cytotoxic T cells or CTLs (cytotoxic lymphocytes).
(Source: National Institutes of Health)