Germinal center responses to complex antigens.
Germinal centers (GCs) are the primary sites of antibody affinity maturation, sites where B-cell antigen-receptor (BCR) genes rapidly acquire mutations and are selected for increasing affinity for antigen. This process of hypermutation and affinity-driven selection results in the clonal expansion of B cells expressing mutated BCRs and acts to hone the antibody repertoire for greater avidity and specificity. Remarkably, whereas the process of affinity maturation has been confirmed in a number of laboratories, models for how affinity maturation in GCs operates are largely from studies of genetically restricted B-cell populations competing for a single hapten epitope. Much less is known about GC responses to complex antigens, which involve both inter- and intraclonal competition for many epitopes. In this review, we (i) compare current methods for analysis of the GC B-cell repertoire, (ii) describe recent studies of GC population dynamics in response to complex antigens, discussing how the observed repertoire changes support or depart from the standard model of clonal selection, and (iii) speculate on the nature and potential importance of the large fraction of GC B cells that do not appear to interact with native antigen.
Finney, J; Yeh, C-H; Kelsoe, G; Kuraoka, M
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