B Cells Use Mechanical Energy to Discriminate Antigen Affinities

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Science  28 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6140, pp. 1587-1590
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237572

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B Cell Tug of War

High-affinity, protective antibodies made by B cells are critical for providing long-term protection against reinfection. In order to produce antibodies, B cells must first bind to and extract antigens from the surface of antigen-presenting cells. Using an in vitro system that allows B cells to bind to antigenladen, flexible membranes, Natkanski et al. (p. 1587, published online 16 May) show that antigen extraction relies on myosin IIA–mediated contractile forces that pull upon the antigen-presenting membrane. These forces break the antigen-receptor bonds if affinity is low, thus ensuring that B cells only extract, internalize, and presumably respond to, high-affinity antigens.