B lymphocytes producing high-affinity Abs are critical for protection from extracellular pathogens, such as bacteria and parasites. The process by which high-affinity B cells are selected during the immune response has never been elucidated. Although it has been shown that high-affinity cells directly outcompete low-affinity cells in the germinal center (GC), whether there are also intrinsic differences between these cells has not been addressed. It could be that higher affinity cells proliferate more rapidly or are more likely to enter cell cycle, thereby outgrowing lower affinity cells. Alternatively, higher affinity cells could be relatively more resistant to cell death in the GC. By comparing high- and low-affinity B cells for the same Ag, we show here that low-affinity cells have an intrinsically higher death rate than do cells of higher affinity, even in the absence of competition. This suggests that selection in the GC reaction is due at least in part to the control of survival of higher affinity B cells and not by a proliferative advantage conferred upon these cells compared with lower affinity B cells. Control over survival rather than proliferation of lowand high-affinity B cells in the GC allows greater diversity not only in the primary response but also in the memory response.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy