A need for antigen-processing and presentation to B cells is not widely appreciated. However, cross-linking of multiple B cell receptors (BCRs) by T-independent antigens delivers a potent signal that induces antibody responses. Such BCR cross-linking also occurs in germinal centers where follicular dendritic cells (FDCs) present multimerized antigens as periodically arranged antigen-antibody complexes (ICs). Unlike T cells that recognize antigens as peptide-MHC complexes, optimal B cell-responses are induced by multimerized FDC-ICs that simultaneously engage multiple BCRs. FDC-FcgammaRIIB mediates IC-periodicity and FDC-BAFF, FDC-IL-6 and FDC-C4bBP are co-stimulators. Remarkably, specific antibody responses can be induced by FDC-ICs in the absence of T cells, opening up the exciting possibility that people with T cell insufficiencies may be immunized with T-dependent vaccines via FDC-ICs.
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