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Nat Immunol. 2004 Jan;5(1):55-63. Epub 2003 Nov 30.

Evidence from the generation of immunoglobulin G-secreting cells that stochastic mechanisms regulate lymphocyte differentiation.

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Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, Locked Bag Number 6, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia.


Naive B lymphocytes undergo isotype switching and develop into immunoglobulin-secreting cells to generate the appropriate class and amount of antibody necessary for effective immunity. Although this seems complex, we report here that the generation of immunoglobulin G-secreting cells from naive precursors is highly predictable. The probabilities of isotype switching and development into secreting cells change with successive cell divisions and interleave independently. Cytokines alter the probability of each differentiation event, while leaving intact their independent assortment. As a result, cellular heterogeneity arises automatically as the cells divide. Stochastic division-linked regulation of heterogeneity challenges the conventional paradigms linking distinct phenotypes to unique combinations of signals and has the potential to simplify our concept of immune complexity considerably.

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