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J Exp Med. 1998 May 18;187(10):1611-21.

Abortive proliferation of rare T cells induced by direct or indirect antigen presentation by rare B cells in vivo.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Antigen-specific B cells are implicated as antigen-presenting cells in memory and tolerance responses because they capture antigens efficiently and localize to T cell zones after antigen capture. It has not been possible, however, to visualize the effect of specific B cells on specific CD4+ helper T cells under physiological conditions. We demonstrate here that rare T cells are activated in vivo by minute quantities of antigen captured by antigen-specific B cells. Antigen-activated B cells are helped under these conditions, whereas antigen-tolerant B cells are killed. The T cells proliferate and then disappear regardless of whether the B cells are activated or tolerant. We show genetically that T cell activation, proliferation, and disappearance can be mediated either by transfer of antigen from antigen-specific B cells to endogenous antigen-presenting cells or by direct B-T cell interactions. These results identify a novel antigen presentation route, and demonstrate that B cell presentation of antigen has profound effects on T cell fate that could not be predicted from in vitro studies.

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