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Int Immunol. 2001 Dec;13(12):1583-93.

Role of B cells as antigen-presenting cells in vivo revisited: antigen-specific B cells are essential for T cell expansion in lymph nodes and for systemic T cell responses to low antigen concentrations.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


Studies in B cell-deficient mice generated by continuous injection of anti-mu antibodies (muSM) showed that T cell priming in lymph nodes was dependent on antigen presentation by B cells. This concept has recently become controversial since a wide range, from complete deficiency to near normal T cell responses, was reported in studies carried out with B cell-deficient mice generated by gene disruption (muMT). In this study we show that in the absence of B cells, T cell responses are greatly reduced in all the available muMT mouse strains although responses in muMT of the C57BL/6 background (which were used for most studies with muMT) were much more variable and could reach up to 42% of control. In contrast, T cell responses in muMT --> F(1) bone marrow chimeras which have the same phenotype as muMT were totally impaired, suggesting a principle difference between mice developing without B cells (muMT mice) and muSM which are made B cell deficient only after birth. Normal T cell priming was completely restored by reconstitution of muMT and muMT --> F(1) mice with syngeneic B cells. Interestingly, only B cell populations containing antigen-specific B cells were capable of reconstituting T cell responses. Monoclonal B cells taken from Ig transgenic mice could not reconstitute responses to an irrelevant antigen. We also found that B cells were also required for systemic T cell priming when antigen concentrations were limiting but were not required for priming (for T cell help) when mice were immunized with a high antigen dose.

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