Human B1 cells in umbilical cord and adult peripheral blood express the novel phenotype CD20+ CD27+ CD43+ CD70-

J Exp Med. 2011 Jan 17;208(1):67-80. doi: 10.1084/jem.20101499. Epub 2011 Jan 10.


B1 cells differ in many ways from conventional B cells, most prominently in the production of natural immunoglobulin, which is vitally important for protection against pathogens. B1 cells have also been implicated in the pathogenesis of autoimmune dyscrasias and malignant diseases. It has been impossible to accurately study B1 cells during health and illness because the nature of human B1 cells has not been successfully defined. This has produced controversy regarding the existence of human B1 cells. Here, we determined the phenotype of human B1 cells by testing sort-purified B cell fractions for three fundamental B1 cell functions based on mouse studies: spontaneous IgM secretion, efficient T cell stimulation, and tonic intracellular signaling. We found that a small population of CD20(+)CD27(+)CD43(+) cells present in both umbilical cord and adult peripheral blood fulfilled these criteria and expressed a skewed B cell receptor repertoire. These B cells express little or no surface CD69 and CD70, both of which are markedly up-regulated after activation of CD20(+)CD27(-)CD43(-) (naive) and CD20(+)CD27(+)CD43(-) (memory) B cells. This work identifies human B1 cells as CD20(+)CD27(+)CD43(+)CD70(-). We determined that the proportion of B1 cells declines with age, which may contribute to disease susceptibility. Identification of human B1 cells provides a foundation for future studies on the nature and role of these cells in human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD / genetics
  • Antigens, CD / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction
  • Umbilical Cord / immunology*
  • Umbilical Cord / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD
  • Immunoglobulin M