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Immunity. 2009 Apr 17;30(4):599-609. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2009.01.011. Epub 2009 Mar 19.

Initial clonal expansion of germinal center B cells takes place at the perimeter of follicles.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Current models of the germinal center (GC) response propose that after stimulation at the edges of T cell zones, pre-GC B cells directly migrate to the center of follicles and proliferate to form GCs. We followed the interrelationship of proliferation, differentiation, and microenvironmental locale in populations of pre-GC B cells responding to antigen. In contrast to the predictions of current models, after accumulation at the T-B interface, these cells appeared at the perimeter of follicles adjacent to the marginal zone. There, they rapidly proliferated for several days but underwent no V gene hypermutation and little heavy-chain class switching. Their chemokine receptor expression pattern indicated that these cells were sessile, yet they had begun to acquire many phenotypic characteristics of GC B cells. The expanded clones were subsequently observed in the center of follicles, suggesting that GCs are created by coalescence of B cells from this follicular perimeter response.

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