• aging;
  • germinal centers;
  • immunosenescence;
  • telomerase;
  • telomeres

Reduction of germinal center reactivity is a landmark of immunosenescence and contributes to immunological dysfunction in the elderly. Germinal centers (GC) are characterized by extensive clonal expansion and selection of B lymphocytes to generate the pool of memory B cells. Telomere maintenance by telomerase has been proposed to allow the extensive proliferation undergone by B lymphocytes in the GC during the immune response. We show here that late generation mTR−/− mice, which lack the mouse telomerase RNA (mTR) and have short telomeres, present a dramatic reduction in GC number following antigen immunization. Upon immunization with an antigen, wild-type splenocyte telomeres are elongated and this is accompanied by a high expression of the telomerase catalytic subunit in the spleen GC. In contrast, telomerase-deficient mTR−/− splenocytes show telomere shortening after immunization, presumably due to cell proliferation in the absence of telomerase. All together, these results demonstrate the importance of telomere maintenance for antibody-mediated immune responses and support the notion that telomere elongation detected in wild-type spleens following immunization is mediated by telomerase.