The immortality of humoral immunity

Immunol Rev. 2010 Jul;236:139-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2010.00924.x.


Decades of high-titered antibody are sustained due to the persistence of memory B cells and long-lived plasma cells (PCs). The differentiation of each of these subsets is antigen- and T-cell driven and is dependent on signals acquired and integrated during the germinal center response. Inherent in the primary immune response must be the delivery of signals to B cells to create these populations, which have virtual immortality. Differences in biology and chemotactic behavior disperse memory B cells and long-lived PCs to a spectrum of anatomic sites. Each subset must rely on survival factors that can support their longevity. This review focuses on the generation of each of these subsets, their survival, and renewal, which must occur to sustain serological memory. In this context, we discuss the role of antigen, bystander inflammation, and cellular niches. The contribution of BAFF (B-cell activating factor belonging to the tumor necrosis factor family) and APRIL (a proliferation-inducing ligand) to the persistence of memory B cells and PCs are also detailed. Insights that have been provided over the past few years in the regulation of long-lived B-cell responses will have profound impact on vaccine development, the treatment of pre-sensitized patients for organ transplantation, and therapeutic interventions in both antibody- and T-cell-mediated autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Cell Activating Factor / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Survival / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral / immunology*
  • Plasma Cells / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Ligand Superfamily Member 13 / metabolism


  • B-Cell Activating Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Ligand Superfamily Member 13