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Infect Immun. 2004 Jun;72(6):3515-23.

Specific in vivo deletion of B-cell subpopulations expressing human immunoglobulins by the B-cell superantigen protein L.

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Institut National de Sante et de Recherche Medicale (INSERM U 430), Immunopathologie Humaine, 75006 Paris, France.


Some pathogens have evolved to produce proteins, called B-cell superantigens, that can interact with human immunoglobulin variable regions, independently of the combining site, and activate B lymphocytes that express the target immunoglobulins. However, the in vivo consequences of these interactions on human B-cell numbers and function are largely unknown. Using transgenic mice expressing fully human immunoglobulins, we studied the consequences of in vivo exposure of protein L of Peptostreptococcus magnus with human immunoglobulins. In the mature pool of B cells, protein L exposure resulted in a specific reduction of splenic marginal-zone B cells and peritoneal B-1 cells. Splenic B cells exhibited a skewed light-chain repertoire consistent with the capacity of protein L to bind specific kappa gene products. Remarkably, these two B-cell subsets are implicated in innate B-cell immunity, allowing rapid clearance of pathogens. Thus, the present study reveals a novel mechanism that may be used by some infectious agents to subvert a first line of the host's immune defense.

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