Dark and light zones of germinal centres of the human tonsil: an ultrastructural study with emphasis on heterogeneity of follicular dendritic cells

Cell Tissue Res. 1992 Aug;269(2):359-68. doi: 10.1007/BF00319629.


The cellular composition of the dark and light zones of germinal centres in human tonsils was quantitatively determined by electron microscopy. In addition to the well known germinal-centre B-cells, we defined the cleaved blast as a new distinct cell type in the germinal centre. The dark and the light zones clearly differed in their content of lymphoid and non-lymphoid germinal-centre cells. The dark zone was characterized by higher frequencies of cleaved blasts and small centroblasts, a higher blast-centrocyte ratio and a higher incidence of mitotic figures. In contrast, the light zone had higher frequencies of centrocytes, centroplasmacytoid cells, lymphocytes and follicular dendritic cells (FDC) and an inverted blast-centrocyte ratio. Seven distinct appearances of FDC (FDC.1-FDC.7) could be recognized on the basis of their ultrastructure. The distribution pattern of these subtypes differed between the dark and light zone. The undifferentiated subtypes FDC.2 and FDC.3 predominated in the dark zone. In contrast, the highly differentiated subtypes FDC.4 and FDC.5 were present at a much higher density in the light zone. These findings suggest that the dark and light zones are different compartments with regard to proliferation and differentiation of germinal-centre B-cells and that both compartments have a specific microenvironment influenced by FDC.

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes / ultrastructure
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Dendritic Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Organelles / ultrastructure
  • Palatine Tonsil / ultrastructure*