• Germinal center;
  • Proliferation;
  • T-independent antigen


Although the nature of the germinal center reaction during responses to T-dependent antigens has been well documented, much less is known regarding the relationship between germinal centers and T-independent antigens. In this study, germinal-center cell proliferation was determined at specific time points in spleens of C3H/HeN mice following immunization with either the type-1, T-independent antigen dinitrophenol-lipopolysaccharide (DNP-LPS), or the type-2, T-independent antigen DNP-Ficoll. A stathmokinetic technique was employed to assess proliferation in terms of germinal center cell birth rate and morphometry was used to measure actual growth and regression of the germinal center cell population. An estimate of the absolute rate of germinal-center (GC) cell proliferation was derived from these two values. In addition, immunohisto-chemistry was performed to correlate changes in GC cell proliferation with the presence or absence of antigen within GC. Following immunization with both antigens, there was an initial reduction of proliferation within pre-existing germinal centers which manifested as either GC dissociation (DNP-LPS) or a suppression of birth rates (DNP-Ficoll). This was followed by a period of increased GC cell proliferation in animals immunized with DNP-LPS, but not in those exposed to DNP-Ficoll. GC cell proliferation was then measured in mice treated with cyclosporin A from 1 day before to 2 days after immunization with DNP-LPS. In these animals, the expected increase in GC cell birth rates did not take place. Immunohistochemistry showed that DNP-Ficoll and DNP-LPS were present in GC from 1 day after immunization until the end of the experiment on day 7. Treatment with cyclosporin A did not affect the deposition of DNP-LPS in GC. These results show that only some T-independent antigens are able to stimulate GC cell proliferation, and we propose that this is related to their ability to recruit precursors of GC B cells into the GC reaction. In addition, the results indicate that GC proliferation seen in response to a so-called T-independent antigen is at least partly driven by T cell-derived cytokines.