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B cell

From Academic Kids

B cells are lymphocytes that play a large role in the humoral immune response (as opposed to the cell-mediated immune response). The abbreviation "B" stands for the bursa of Fabricius which is an organ unique to birds, where B cells mature. It does not stand for bone marrow, where B cells are produced in all other vertebrates except for rabbits (where B cells develop in the appendix-sacculus rotundus).

The human body makes millions of different types of B cells each day, and each type has a unique receptor protein (referred to as the B cell receptor, or the BCR) on its membrane that will bind to one particular antigen; at any one time in the human body millions of B cells are circulating in the blood and lymph, but are not producing antibodies. Once the B cell encounters its cognate antigen and receives an additional signal from a helper T cell, it can further differentiate into one of the two types of B cells listed below. The B cell can either directly become one of these cell types or go through an intermediate differentiation step - the germinal center reaction where the B cell will hypermutate the variable region of the antibody and possibly class switch.

  • Plasma B cells secrete antibodies which effect the destruction of antigens by binding to them and making them easier targets for phagocytes.
  • Memory B cells are formed specific to the antigen(s) encountered during the primary immune response; able to live for a long time, these cells can respond quickly upon second exposure to the antigen for which they are specific.

Humoral immunity (the creation of antibodies that circulate in blood plasma and lymph) involves B cell activation. Cell activation can be gauged using the ELISPOT technique, which can determine the percentage of B cells that secrete any particular antibody.

B cells are characterised immunohistochemically in humans by the presence of CD20 on the cell membrane. In mice, CD45 (B220) is often used.

A critical difference between B cells and T cells is how each cell "sees" antigen. B cells recognize their cognate antigen in its native form. In contrast, T cells recognize their cognate antigen in a processed form - as a peptide in the context of an MHC molecule.

Susumu Tonegawa won the 1987 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for demonstrating how B cells create the enormous diversity of antibodies from only a few genes.

See also


Immune system
Humoral immune system - Cellular immune system - Lymphatic system
White blood cells - B cells - Antibodies - Antigen (MHC)
Lymphocytes: T cells (Cytotoxic & Helper) - B cells (Plasma cells & Memory B cells)
de:B-Lymphozyt

fr:Lymphocyte B es:Linfocito B ja:B細胞

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