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Int Immunol. 1998 Nov;10(11):1703-11.

Survival of long-lived plasma cells is independent of antigen.

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  • 1Deutsches Rheuma-Forschungszentrum, Berlin, Germany.


Recent studies have shown that persistent specific antibody titer is provided by long-lived plasma cells (PC) which constitute a new kind of 'memory-providing cells'. In the present study, we examine the role of antigen for the long-term survival of PC and the maintenance of specific serum antibody titers. Using a novel cytometric technology, to identify and isolate antigen-specific PC, we analyzed long-lived PC of BALB/c mice, during their development (between day 1 and 10) after secondary immunization with ovalbumin (OVA) and in the phase of the established immune reaction. Most if not all OVA-specific PC were generated within a few days after immunization. Within approximately 3 weeks, they matured, as indicated by down-regulation of expression of MHC class II. These PC are long lived and located in spleen and bone marrow. Upon adoptive transfer, OVA-specific PC from bone marrow, but not memory B cells, conferred specific and long-lasting antibody titers to antigen-free IgH syngeneic recipients. In response to antigenic challenge, new OVA-specific antibody-secreting cells were generated from transferred memory B cells. Antibody secretion by long-lived PC was not affected. Our results confirm that persistent antibody titers are provided by long-lived PC, independent of memory B cells and demonstrate that this humoral memory is inert to antigen.

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