Plasma cells (PCs) derived from germinal centers (GCs) secrete the high-affinity antibodies required for long-term serological immunity. Nevertheless, the process whereby GC B cells differentiate into PCs is uncharacterized, and the mechanism underlying the selective PC differentiation of only high-affinity GC B cells remains unknown. In this study, we show that differentiation into PCs is induced among a discrete subset of high-affinity B cells residing within the light zone of the GC. Initiation of differentiation required signals delivered upon engagement with intact antigen. Signals delivered by T follicular helper cells were not required to initiate differentiation but were essential to complete the differentiation process and drive migration of maturing PCs through the dark zone and out of the GC. This bipartite or two-signal mechanism has likely evolved to both sustain protective immunity and avoid autoantibody production.
- Submitted: 13 September 2016
- Revision received 15 November 2016
- Accepted: 15 February 2017
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