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Curr Opin Immunol. 2007 Jun;19(3):275-80. Epub 2007 Apr 12.

Affinity of antigen encounter and other early B-cell signals determine B-cell fate.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH 03756, USA.


Three possible effector fates await the naïve follicular B cell following antigen stimulation in thymus-dependent reactions. Short-lived plasma cells produce an initial burst of germline-encoded protective antibodies, and long-lived plasma cells and memory B cells arise from the germinal center and function to enhance and sustain the humoral immune response. The inherent B-cell receptor affinity of naïve follicular B cells and the contribution of other early B-cell signals pre-determines the pattern of transcription factor expression and the differentiation path taken by these cells. High initial B-cell receptor affinity shunts naïve follicular B-cell clones towards the short-lived plasma cell fate, whereas modest-affinity clones are skewed towards a plasma cell fate and low-affinity clones are recruited into the germinal center and are selected for both long-lived plasma cells and memory B cell pathways. In the germinal center reaction, increased levels of the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor-4 drive the molecular program that dictates differentiation into the long-lived plasma cell phenotype but has no impact on the memory B cell compartment. We hypothesize that graded interferon regulatory factor-4 levels driven by signals to B cells, including B-cell receptor signal strength, are responsible for this branch point in the B-cell terminal differentiation pathway.

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