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J Immunol. 2010 May 1;184(9):5085-93. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902710. Epub 2010 Mar 29.

Impaired germinal center responses and suppression of local IgG production during intracellular bacterial infection.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, University at Albany, Albany, NY 12201, USA.


Germinal centers (GCs) are specialized microenvironments in secondary lymphoid organs that facilitate the development of high-affinity, isotype-switched Abs, and immunological memory; consequently, many infections require GC-derived IgG for pathogen clearance. Although Ehrlichia muris infection elicits a robust expansion of splenic, IgM-secreting plasmablasts, we detected only very low frequencies of isotype-switched IgG-secreting cells in mouse spleens, until at least 3 wk postinfection. Instead, Ag-specific IgG was produced in lymph nodes, where it required CD4 T cell help. Consistent with these findings, organized GCs and phenotypically defined splenic GC B cells were found in lymph nodes, but not spleens. Ehrlichial infection also inhibited spleen IgG responses against a coadministered T cell-dependent Ag, hapten 4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl acetyl (NP)-conjugated chicken gamma globulin in alum. NP-specific B cells failed to undergo expansion and differentiation into GC B cells in the spleen, Ab titers were reduced, and splenic IgG production was inhibited nearly 10-fold when the Ag was administered during infection. Our data provide a mechanism whereby an intracellular bacterial infection can compromise local immunity to coinfecting pathogens or antigenic challenge.

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