A relatively high number of different subsets of B-cells are generated through the differentiation of early B-cell precursors into mature B-lymphocytes in the bone marrow (BM) and antigen-triggered maturation of germinal center B-cells into memory B-lymphocytes and plasmablasts in lymphoid tissues. These B-cell subpopulations, which are produced in the BM and lymphoid tissues, recirculate through peripheral blood (PB), into different tissues including mucosa and the BM, where long-living plasma cells produce antibodies. These circulating PB B-cells can be classified according to their maturation stage into i) immature/transitional, ii) naïve, and iii) memory B-lymphocytes, and iv) plasmablasts/plasma cells. Additionally, unique subsets of memory B-lymphocytes and plasmablasts/plasma cells can be identified based on their differential expression of unique Ig-heavy chain isotypes (e.g.: IgM, IgD, IgG, IgA). In the present paper, we review recent data reported in the literature about the distribution, immunophenotypic and functional characteristics of these cell subpopulations, as well as their distribution in PB according to age and seasonal changes. Additional information is also provided in this regard based on the study of a population-based cohort of 600 healthy adults aged from 20 to 80 years, recruited in the Salamanca area in western Spain. Detailed knowledge of the distribution and traffic of B-cell subsets through PB mirrors the immune status of an individual subject and it may also contribute to a better understanding of B-cell disorders related to B-cell biology and homeostasis, such as monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL).
© 2010 International Clinical Cytometry Society.