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Immunology. 1999 Oct;98(2):258-66.

Regulation of VH gene repertoire and somatic mutation in germinal centre B cells by passively administered antibody.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Immunization with T-dependent antigens induces a rapid differentiation of B cells to plasmacytes that produce the primary immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG antibodies with low affinities for the immunogen. It is proposed that the IgG antibody forms immune complexes with the residual antigen which provide an important stimulus for the formation of germinal centres (GC) and the activation of somatic mutation. This hypothesis was tested by passive administration of hapten-specific antibody into mice shortly after the immunization with nitrophenyl (NP) coupled to chicken gamma globulin (NP-CGG) in an environment of limited T-cell help. Athymic mice that received normal T helper cells at 72 hr after the administration of antigen produced low levels of anti-NP antibody and the splenic GC formation was delayed until day 12 after the antigen administration. The analysis of VDJ segments from NP-reactive GC B cells showed very few mutations in the VH genes. Passive injection of anti-NP IgG1 monoclonal antibody - but, not IgM - stimulated the GC formation up to normal levels and the somatic mutation activity in the GC B cells was fully restored. In addition, GC B cells in the recipients of IgG1 antibody demonstrated a change in the usage of germline-encoded VH genes which was not apparent among the primary antibody-forming cells. These results suggest the existence of a specific feedback mechanism whereby the IgG antibody regulates the GC formation, clonotypic repertoire and somatic mutation in GC B cells.

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