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Semin Immunol. 1989 Sep;1(1):5-12.

Antigen presentation by B lymphocytes: mechanisms and functional significance.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School Boston, MA 02115, USA.


B lymphocytes are remarkably efficient at presenting protein antigens that bind to their immunoglobulin (Ig) receptors to class II MHC-restricted CD4+ helper T cells. Ig molecules function as high-affinity binding sites for capturing antigens at limiting concentrations. In addition, Ig receptor-mediated endocytosis leads to an intracellular pathway of protein traffic that favors recycling of antigens and optimizes the processing of these antigens. As a result, small amounts of endocytosed antigens are capable of associating with MHC molecules and being presented in a form that can be specifically recognized by T lymphocytes. The antigen presenting function of B cells is particularly important in secondary antibody responses, which require low concentrations of antigens and MHC-restricted T-B cell cooperation.

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