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Nature. 1996 Aug 1;382(6590):462-6.

Affinity maturation without germinal centres in lymphotoxin-alpha-deficient mice.

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Center for Immunology and Department of Internal Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Affinity maturation by somatic hypermutation is thought to occur within germinal centres. Mice deficient in lymphotoxin-alpha (LT alpha-/- mice) have no lymph nodes or Peyer's patches, and fail to form germinal centres in the spleen. We tested whether germinal centres are essential for maturation of antibody responses to T-cell-dependent antigens. LT alpha-/- mice immunized with low doses of (4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl)acetyl-ovalbumin (NP-OVA) showed dramatically impaired production of high-affinity anti-NP IgG1. However, LT alpha-/- mice immunized with high doses of NP-OVA, even though they failed to produce germinal centres, manifested a high-affinity anti-NP IgG1 response similar to wild-type mice. Furthermore, when LT alpha-/- mice were multiply immunized with high doses of NP-OVA, the predominantly expressed anti-NP VH gene segment VH186.2 showed somatic mutations typical of affinity maturation. Thus, B-cell memory and affinity maturation are not absolutely dependent on the presence of germinal centres.

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