Antigen Feast or Famine

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Science  27 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6067, pp. 408-409
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218165

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Humoral immunity is critical for host defense and depends upon the generation of secreted antibodies with high affinity for antigens. The generation of high-affinity antibodies is a Darwinian process in which cycles of mutation in the genes encoding an antibody and the selection of antibodies for antigen binding lead to many-fold increases of antibody affinity. On page 475 in this issue, Thaunat et al. (1) report that B cells inherit antigen in an asymmetric manner during cell division, leaving all but one daughter cell starved of antigen while the cells are otherwise dividing symmetrically. This has implications for models of the humoral response that can be further explored.