The rise and fall of long-lived humoral immunity: terminal differentiation of plasma cells in health and disease


Loren D. Erickson
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Dartmouth Medical School
640 West Borwell Building
1 Medical Center Drive
Lebanon, NH 03756
Fax: +1 603 650 6223


Summary:  Long-lived humoral immune responses are a hallmark of thymus-dependent immunity. The cellular basis for enduring antibody-mediated immunity is long-lived memory B cells and plasma cells (PCs). Both of these cell populations acquire longevity as a result of antigen-specific, CD40–dependent, cognate interactions with helper T cells within germinal centers (GCs). At the molecular level, defined functional domains of CD40 control the post-GC fate of B cells. PC precursors that emerge from these GC reactions are highly proliferative and terminally differentiate to end-stage cells within the bone marrow (BM). The striking phenotypic similarities between the PC precursors and the putative malignant cell in multiple myeloma (MM) suggests that MM may result from the transformation of PC precursors. Within the domain of autoimmune disease, recent studies have shown that dysregulated migration of PCs to the BM may impact immune homeostasis and the development of lupus. Understanding the processes of normal PC differentiation will provide strategic insights into identifying therapeutic targets for the treatment of differentiated B-cell disorders.