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Nat Immunol. 2011 Nov 27;13(1):44-50. doi: 10.1038/ni.2172.

Invariant natural killer T cells direct B cell responses to cognate lipid antigen in an IL-21-dependent manner.

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Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, New York, USA.


Mouse invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT cells) provide cognate and noncognate help for lipid and protein-specific B cells, respectively. However, the long-term outcome for B cells after cognate help is provided by iNKT cells is unknown at present. Here we found that cognate iNKT cell help resulted in a B cell differentiation program characterized by extrafollicular plasmablasts, germinal-center formation, affinity maturation and a robust primary immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody response that was uniquely dependent on iNKT cell-derived interleukin 21 (IL-21). However, cognate help from iNKT cells did not generate an enhanced humoral memory response. Thus, cognate iNKT cell help for lipid-specific B cells induces a unique signature that is a hybrid of classic T cell-dependent and T cell-independent type 2 B cell responses.

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