T cell help controls the speed of the cell cycle in germinal center B cells

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Science  07 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6248, pp. 643-646
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4919

B cells have a need for speed

High-affinity antibodies provide long-lasting protective immunity against many infections. Generating such antibodies requires help, in the form of T cells, which interact with antibody-producing B cells. As B cells proliferate and mutate their antibody genes, T cells select the cells producing high-affinity antibodies. Gitlin et al. show in mice that B cells that receive T cell help transit through the cell cycle more quickly by increasing the speed at which replication forks progress. Such a rapid cell cycle transition gives high-affinity B cells a selective advantage.

Science, this issue p. 643


The germinal center (GC) is a microanatomical compartment wherein high-affinity antibody-producing B cells are selectively expanded. B cells proliferate and mutate their antibody genes in the dark zone (DZ) of the GC and are then selected by T cells in the light zone (LZ) on the basis of affinity. Here, we show that T cell help regulates the speed of cell cycle phase transitions and DNA replication of GC B cells. Genome sequencing and single-molecule analyses revealed that T cell help shortens S phase by regulating replication fork progression, while preserving the relative order of replication origin activation. Thus, high-affinity GC B cells are selected by a mechanism that involves prolonged dwell time in the DZ where selected cells undergo accelerated cell cycles.

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