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Nat Immunol. 2006 Jul;7(7):773-82. Epub 2006 Jun 11.

Transcription factor IRF4 controls plasma cell differentiation and class-switch recombination.

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Institute for Cancer Genetics, Department of Pathology and Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


B cells producing high-affinity antibodies are destined to differentiate into memory B cells and plasma cells, but the mechanisms leading to those differentiation pathways are mostly unknown. Here we report that the transcription factor IRF4 is required for the generation of plasma cells. Transgenic mice with conditional deletion of Irf4 in germinal center B cells lacked post-germinal center plasma cells and were unable to differentiate memory B cells into plasma cells. Plasma cell differentiation required IRF4 as well as the transcriptional repressor Blimp-1, which both acted 'upstream' of the transcription factor XBP-1. In addition, IRF4-deficient B cells had impaired expression of activation-induced deaminase and lacked class-switch recombination, suggesting an independent function for IRF4 in this process. These results identify IRF4 as a crucial transcriptional 'switch' in the generation of functionally competent plasma cells.

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