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Annu Rev Immunol. 2003;21:205-30. Epub 2001 Dec 19.

Regulatory mechanisms that determine the development and function of plasma cells.

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Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Plasma cells are terminally differentiated final effectors of the humoral immune response. Plasma cells that result from antigen activation of B-1 and marginal zone B cells provide the first, rapid response to antigen. Plasma cells that develop after a germinal center reaction provide higher-affinity antibody and often survive many months in the bone marrow. Transcription factors Bcl-6 and Pax5, which are required for germinal center B cells, block plasmacytic differentiation and repress Blimp-1 and XBP-1, respectively. When Bcl-6-dependent repression of Blimp-1 is relieved, Blimp-1 ensures that plasmacytic development is irreversible by repressing BCL-6 and PAX5. In plasma cells, Blimp-1, XBP-1, IRF4, and other regulators cause cessation of cell cycle, decrease signaling from the B cell receptor and communication with T cells, inhibit isotype switching and somatic hypermutation, downregulate CXCR5, and induce copious immunoglobulin synthesis and secretion. Thus, commitment to plasmacytic differentiation involves inhibition of activities associated with earlier B cell developmental stages as well as expression of the plasma cell phenotype.

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