Clues to how B cells establish affinity

Spread-and-contract mechanism allows B lymphocytes to gather high-affinity antigens

Melissa Lee Phillips
May 4, 2006
In the early moments of an immune response, B lymphocytes spread around cell membranes containing foreign antigens and gather these antigens into aggregates, according to a paper in this week's Science. The authors also found that B cells spread farther around membranes containing high-affinity antigen, which leads to increased antigen accumulation and B cell activation."This could be a mechanism that would allow for affinity maturation," in which B cells that produce antibodies with high antigen affinity are selected for survival by the immune system, said Anthony DeFranco of the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.Previous work by senior author Facundo Batista of the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute and his colleagues revealed that when a B cell recognizes an antigen embedded in a cell membrane, an immunological "synapse" -- composed of clusters of B cell receptors, antigens, and...

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