B-cell biology and development


  • K. Pieper
  • B. Grimbacher
  • H. Eibel


  • Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology


  • J Allergy Clin Immunol 131 (4): 959-971


  • B cells develop from hematopoietic precursor cells in an ordered maturation and selection process. Extensive studies with many different mouse mutants provided fundamental insights into this process. However, the characterization of genetic defects causing primary immunodeficiencies was essential in understanding human B-cell biology. Defects in pre-B-cell receptor components or in downstream signaling proteins, such as Bruton tyrosine kinase and B-cell linker protein, arrest development at the pre-B-cell stage. Defects in survival-regulating proteins, such as B-cell activator of the TNF-α family receptor (BAFF-R) or caspase recruitment domain-containing protein 11 (CARD11), interrupt maturation and prevent differentiation of transitional B cells into marginal zone and follicular B cells. Mature B-cell subsets, immune responses, and memory B-cell and plasma cell development are disturbed by mutations affecting Toll-like receptor signaling, B-cell antigen receptor coreceptors (eg, CD19), or enzymes responsible for immunoglobulin class-switch recombination. Transgenic mouse models helped to identify key regulatory mechanisms, such as receptor editing and clonal anergy, preventing the activation of B cells expressing antibodies recognizing autoantigens. Nevertheless, the combination of susceptible genetic backgrounds with the rescue of self-reactive B cells by T cells allows the generation of autoreactive clones found in patients with many autoimmune diseases and even in those with primary immunodeficiencies. The rapid progress of functional genomic research is expected to foster the development of new tools that specifically target dysfunctional B lymphocytes to treat autoimmunity, B-cell malignancies, and immunodeficiency.