Identification of germinal center (GC) B cells is typically reliant on the use of surface activation markers that exhibit a wide range of expression. Here, we identify Ephrin-B1, a ligand for Eph-related receptor tyrosine kinases, as a specific marker of mature GC B cells. The number of Ephrin-B1+ GC B cells increases during the course of an immune response with Ephrin-B1+ GC B cells displaying elevated levels of Bcl6, S1pr2, and Aicda relative to their Ephrin-B1– counterparts. We further identified a small proportion of recently dividing, somatically mutated Ephrin-B1+ GC B cells that have begun to down-regulate Bcl6 and S1pr2 and express markers associated with memory B cells, such as CD38 and EBI2. Transcriptional analysis indicates that these cells are developmentally related to memory B cells, and likely represent a population of GC memory precursor (PreMem) B cells. GC PreMem cells display enhanced survival relative to bulk GC B cells, localize near the edge of the GC, and are predominantly found within the light zone. These findings offer insight into the significant heterogeneity that exists within the GC B cell population and provide tools to further dissect signals regulating the differentiation of GC B cells.
- Submitted: 1 September 2016
- Revision received 19 November 2016
- Accepted: 19 December 2016
This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see http://www.rupress.org/terms/). After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/).