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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Apr;131(4):933-57; quiz 958. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.02.023.

B-lymphocyte lineage cells and the respiratory system.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Adaptive humoral immune responses in the airways are mediated by B cells and plasma cells that express highly evolved and specific receptors and produce immunoglobulins of most isotypes. In some cases, such as autoimmune diseases or inflammatory diseases caused by excessive exposure to foreign antigens, these same immune cells can cause disease by virtue of overly vigorous responses. This review discusses the generation, differentiation, signaling, activation, and recruitment pathways of B cells and plasma cells, with special emphasis on unique characteristics of subsets of these cells functioning within the respiratory system. The primary sensitization events that generate B cells responsible for effector responses throughout the airways usually occur in the upper airways, tonsils, and adenoid structures that make up the Waldeyer ring. On secondary exposure to antigen in the airways, antigen-processing dendritic cells migrate into secondary lymphoid organs, such as lymph nodes, that drain the upper and lower airways, and further B-cell expansion takes place at those sites. Antigen exposure in the upper or lower airways can also drive expansion of B-lineage cells in the airway mucosal tissue and lead to the formation of inducible lymphoid follicles or aggregates that can mediate local immunity or disease.

Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

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