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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Dec 19;92(26):12379-83.

The BALB/c mouse B-cell response to pigeon cytochrome c initiates as a heteroclitic response specific for the self antigen mouse cytochrome c.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


Direct evidence is presented in support of the longstanding but unproven hypothesis that B lymphocytes specific for self antigens (Ags) can be used in the immune response to foreign Ags. We show that the B cells in BALB/c mic responding early to pigeon cytochrome c (CYT) produce antibodies that recognize and bind the major antigenic site on mouse CYT with greater affinity than they bind pigeon CYT i.e., they are heteroclitic for the self Ag. Furthermore, these B cells express the same combination of immunoglobulin variable region (V) genes that are known to be used in B-cell recognition of mouse CYT. Over time, the response to pigeon CYT becomes more specific for the foreign Ag through the recruitment of B cells expressing different combinations of V genes and, possibly, somatic mutation of the mouse CYT specific B cells from early in the response. Cross-recognition of pigeon CYT by mouse CYT-specific B cells results from the sharing of critical amino acid residues by the two Ags. Although B-cell recognition of the self Ag, mouse CYT, is very specific, which limits the extent to which foreign Ags can cross-activate the autoreactive B cells, it is possible that polyreactive B cells to other self Ags may be used more frequently in response to foreign Ags.

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