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Eur J Immunol. 2002 Dec;32(12):3472-80.

Novel B cell population producing functional IgG in the absence of membrane IgM expression.

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Department of Immunology and Cell Biology, Research Center Borstel, Borstel, Germany.


Surface expression of IgM is a characteristic feature of the development of most B cells. Only pre-B cells bearing functional IgM heavy chains mu chains) are selected for clonal expansion and differentiation. Cells lacking mu chains are normally eliminated. muMT mice carrying a deletion of the first exon coding for the transmembrane domain of the immunoglobulin mu chain gene were described as mice deficient for mature B cells, plasma cells and immunoglobulins in serum. In this study, we describe in muMT/BALB/c mice the presence of a novel B cell population, producing IgG, IgA and IgE in the absence of IgM membrane expression. Moreover, this small population of B cells is able to recognize antigens and to differentiate into plasma cells. These "non-conventional" mu(- / -) B cells produce functional immunoglobulins after immunization, undergo germinal center reactions, and maintain B cell memory. Our findings support the concept, that a small percentage of mu -non-expressing pre-B cells can escape elimination, switch to downstream immunoglobulin heavy chains and respond to antigens. It remains an open question how the reactivity of these B cells is regulated and in which extent such B cells play a role in physiological and pathological processes such as autoantibody production and autoimmunity.

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