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J Exp Med. 1998 Nov 2;188(9):1679-89.

Human immunoglobulin (Ig)M+IgD+ peripheral blood B cells expressing the CD27 cell surface antigen carry somatically mutated variable region genes: CD27 as a general marker for somatically mutated (memory) B cells.

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  • 1Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne, 50931 Cologne, Germany.


Immunoglobulin (Ig)M+IgD+ B cells are generally assumed to represent antigen-inexperienced, naive B cells expressing variable (V) region genes without somatic mutations. We report here that human IgM+IgD+ peripheral blood (PB) B cells expressing the CD27 cell surface antigen carry mutated V genes, in contrast to CD27-negative IgM+IgD+ B cells. IgM+IgD+CD27(+) B cells resemble class-switched and IgM-only memory cells in terms of cell phenotype, and comprise approximately 15% of PB B lymphocytes in healthy adults. Moreover, a very small population (<1% of PB B cells) of highly mutated IgD-only B cells was detected, which likely represent the PB counterpart of IgD-only tonsillar germinal center and plasma cells. Overall, the B cell pool in the PB of adults consists of approximately 40% mutated memory B cells and 60% unmutated, naive IgD+CD27(-) B cells (including CD5(+) B cells). In the somatically mutated B cells, VH region genes carry a two- to threefold higher load of somatic mutation than rearranged Vkappa genes. This might be due to an intrinsically lower mutation rate in kappa light chain genes compared with heavy chain genes and/or result from kappa light chain gene rearrangements in GC B cells. A common feature of the somatically mutated B cell subsets is the expression of the CD27 cell surface antigen which therefore may represent a general marker for memory B cells in humans.

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