• A molecular theory of germinal center B cell selection and division.

      Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Cell Press, 2021-08-24)
      The selection of B cells (BCs) in germinal centers (GCs) is pivotal to the generation of high-affinity antibodies and memory BCs, but it lacks global understanding. Based on the idea of a single Tfh-cell signal that controls BC selection and division, experiments appear contradictory. Here, we use the current knowledge on the molecular pathways of GC BCs to develop a theory of GC BC selection and division based on the dynamics of molecular factors. This theory explains the seemingly contradictory experiments by the separation of signals for BC fate decision from signals controlling the number of BC divisions. Three model variants are proposed and experiments are predicted that allow one to distinguish those. Understanding information processing in molecular BC states is critical for targeted immune interventions, and the proposed theory implies that selection and division can be controlled independently in GC reactions.
    • Permissive selection followed by affinity-based proliferation of GC light zone B cells dictates cell fate and ensures clonal breadth.

      Nakagawa, Rinako; Toboso-Navasa, Amparo; Schips, Marta; Young, George; Bhaw-Rosun, Leena; Llorian-Sopena, Miriam; Chakravarty, Probir; Sesay, Abdul Karim; Kassiotis, George; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; et al. (National Academy of Sciences, 2021-01-12)
      Affinity maturation depends on how efficiently germinal centers (GCs) positively select B cells in the light zone (LZ). Positively selected GC B cells recirculate between LZs and dark zones (DZs) and ultimately differentiate into plasmablasts (PBs) and memory B cells (MBCs). Current understanding of the GC reaction presumes that cMyc-dependent positive selection of LZ B cells is a competitive affinity-dependent process; however, this cannot explain the production of GC-derived lower-affinity MBCs or retention of GC B cells with varied affinities. Here, by combining single-cell/bulk RNA sequencing and flow cytometry, we identified and characterized temporally and functionally distinct positively selected cMyc+ GC B cell subpopulations. cMyc+ LZ B cell subpopulations enriched with either higher- or lower-affinity cells diverged soon after permissive positive selection. The former subpopulation contained PB precursors, whereas the latter comprised less proliferative MBC precursors and future DZ entrants. The overall affinity of future DZ entrants was enhanced in the LZ through preferential proliferation of higher-affinity cells. Concurrently, lower-affinity cells were retained in GCs and protected from apoptosis. These findings redefine positive selection as a dynamic process generating three distinct B cell fates and elucidate how positive selection ensures clonal diversity for broad protection.