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Cell. 1991 Dec 20;67(6):1121-9.

Maturation of the immune response in germinal centers.

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Institut für Genetik, Köln, Germany.


Germinal centers develop in peripheral lymphatic tissue during the primary immune response and may play a crucial role in affinity maturation. We have compared the diversification of the antigen-specific repertoire of B cells, both from within and from outside the germinal centers, during the murine response to 2-phenyloxazolone (phOx). By sequencing V kappa Ox1 L-chains characteristic of phOx-specific antibodies, we show that somatic mutations accumulate in germinal center B cells and that a mutation conferring high affinity binding is found with increasing frequency. An analysis of V/D/J rearrangements suggests that this mutation occurred independently in many B cells, which were then preferentially expanded. We conclude that, although the hypermutation mechanism may be activated before germinal centers develop, affinity maturation by hypermutation and selection takes place in the germinal centers.

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