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Nature. 2000 Oct 5;407(6804):636-42.

Memory B-cell persistence is independent of persisting immunizing antigen.

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Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Nature 2001 Jan 18;409(6818):382.


Immunological memory in the antibody system is generated in T-cell-dependent responses and carried by long-lived memory B cells that recognize antigen by high-affinity antibodies. But it remains controversial whether these B cells represent true 'memory' cells (that is, their maintenance is independent of the immunizing antigen), or whether they are a product of a chronic immune response driven by the immunizing antigen, which can be retained in the organism for extended time periods on the surface of specialized antigen-presenting cells (follicular dendritic cells). Cell transfer experiments provided evidence in favour of a role of the immunizing antigen; however, analysis of memory cells in intact animals, which showed that these cells are mostly resting and can persist in the absence of detectable T-cell help or follicular dendritic cells, argued against it. Here we show, by using a genetic switch mediated by Cre recombinase, that memory B cells switching their antibody specificity away from the immunizing antigen are indeed maintained in the animal over long periods of time, similar to cells retaining their original antigen-binding specificity.

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