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J Immunol. 2011 Mar 1;186(5):3047-57. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1002695. Epub 2011 Feb 9.

Transcriptomes of the B and T lineages compared by multiplatform microarray profiling.

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Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


T and B lymphocytes are developmentally and functionally related cells of the immune system, representing the two major branches of adaptive immunity. Although originating from a common precursor, they play very different roles: T cells contribute to and drive cell-mediated immunity, whereas B cells secrete Abs. Because of their functional importance and well-characterized differentiation pathways, T and B lymphocytes are ideal cell types with which to understand how functional differences are encoded at the transcriptional level. Although there has been a great deal of interest in defining regulatory factors that distinguish T and B cells, a truly genomewide view of the transcriptional differences between these two cells types has not yet been taken. To obtain a more global perspective of the transcriptional differences underlying T and B cells, we exploited the statistical power of combinatorial profiling on different microarray platforms, and the breadth of the Immunological Genome Project gene expression database, to generate robust differential signatures. We find that differential expression in T and B cells is pervasive, with the majority of transcripts showing statistically significant differences. These distinguishing characteristics are acquired gradually, through all stages of B and T differentiation. In contrast, very few T versus B signature genes are uniquely expressed in these lineages, but are shared throughout immune cells.

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