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Nat Immunol. 2006 Oct;7(10):1116-24. Epub 2006 Sep 17.

B lymphocytes from early vertebrates have potent phagocytic and microbicidal abilities.

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Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


The present paradigm dictates that phagocytosis is accomplished mainly by 'professional' phagocytes (such as macrophages and monocytes), whereas B cells lack phagocytic capabilities. Here we demonstrate that B cells from teleost fish have potent in vitro and in vivo phagocytic activities. Particle uptake by B cells induced activation of 'downstream' degradative pathways, leading to 'phagolysosome' formation and intracellular killing of ingested microbes. Those results indicate a previously unknown function for B cells in the innate immunity of these primitive animals. A considerable proportion of Xenopus laevis B cells were also phagocytic. Our findings support the idea that B cells evolved from an ancestral phagocytic cell type and provide an evolutionary framework for understanding the close relationship between mammalian B lymphocytes and macrophages.

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