Signaling via the inducible costimulator ICOS fuels the stepwise development of follicular helper T cells (TFH cells). However, a signaling pathway unique to ICOS has not been identified. We found here that the kinase TBK1 associated with ICOS via a conserved motif, IProx, that shares homology with the tumor-necrosis-factor receptor (TNFR)-associated factors TRAF2 and TRAF3. Disruption of this motif abolished the association of TBK1 with ICOS, TRAF2 and TRAF3, which identified a TBK1-binding consensus. Alteration of this motif in ICOS or depletion of TBK1 in T cells severely impaired the differentiation of germinal center (GC) TFH cells and the development of GCs, interfered with B cell differentiation and disrupted the development of antibody responses, but the IProx motif and TBK1 were dispensable for the early differentiation of TFH cells. These results reveal a previously unknown ICOS-TBK1 signaling pathway that specifies the commitment of GC TFH cells.