Studies on gene expression within germinal centers

Jennifer Sims-Mourtada, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


During T cell dependent immune responses, the acquisition of B cell memory from naïve cells takes place within a highly specialized microenvironment: The germinal centers (GC) of the secondary lymphoid organs. The GC reaction is a tightly regulated process in which the balance between survival and death is mediated by signals transduced through ligation of critical costimulatory molecules such as CD40 and CD154. While most cognate receptor-ligand interactions occur between T-cells and antigen (Ag)-presenting cells (APC) such as B-cells, evidence of homotypic B cell interactions has emerged. Despite the progress in our understanding of the reaction, several questions remain: (1) What determines the concomitant expression of CD40 and its ligand CD154 by GC B-cells? (2) Which molecules are responsible for inducing GC-B cell survival? and (3) how can cognate T-cell help be recruited into the organized structure of GCs? Because the expression of costimulatory and survival molecules is predominant at distinct Ag-dependent maturation stages, we hypothesized the existence of stage specific gene expression responsible for the regulation of the GC reaction. Our studies reveal several novel genes whose expression may be critical for the GC reaction. The discovery of AKNA reveals the mechanism behind homotypic B cell CD40 and CD40 ligand interactions, which can explain the costimulatory signaling to GC B cells in the absence of T cells. Additionally, the identification of the pro-survival molecule PRELI may provide a novel mechanism for the survival of Ag-selected B cells. We propose that PRELI and its phylogenic homologues represent a novel family of proteins responsible for the protection of cells against caspase-independent apoptosis. Furthermore, we show that GC B cells actively participate in the recruitment of T cells through the secretion of CC and CxC chemokines, thus supporting their mutual involvement in cognate interactions.

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Recommended Citation

Sims-Mourtada, Jennifer, "Studies on gene expression within germinal centers" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3138886.