Transcriptional analysis of the B cell germinal center reaction

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 4;100(5):2639-44. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0437996100. Epub 2003 Feb 25.


The germinal center (GC) reaction is crucial for T cell-dependent immune responses and is targeted by B cell lymphomagenesis. Here we analyzed the transcriptional changes that occur in B cells during GC transit (naive B cells --> centroblasts --> centrocytes --> memory B cells) by gene expression profiling. Naive B cells, characterized by the expression of cell cycle-inhibitory and antiapoptotic genes, become centroblasts by inducing an atypical proliferation program lacking c-Myc expression, switching to a proapoptotic program, and down-regulating cytokine, chemokine, and adhesion receptors. The transition from GC to memory cells is characterized by a return to a phenotype similar to that of naive cells except for an apoptotic program primed for both death and survival and for changes in the expression of cell surface receptors including IL-2 receptor beta. These results provide insights into the dynamics of the GC reaction and represent the basis for the analysis of B cell malignancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Separation
  • Down-Regulation
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Germinal Center*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor beta Subunit
  • Magnetics
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Palatine Tonsil / cytology
  • Phenotype
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin / immunology*
  • Receptors, Interleukin / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Up-Regulation


  • IL2RB protein, human
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor beta Subunit
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Receptors, Interleukin