To what extent immune responses against the gut flora are compartmentalized within mucosal tissues in homeostatic conditions remains a much-debated issue. We describe here, based on an inducible AID fate-mapping mouse model, that systemic memory B cell subsets, including mainly IgM+ B cells in spleen, together with IgA+ plasma cells in spleen and bone marrow, are generated in mice in the absence of deliberate immunization. While the IgA component appears dependent on the gut flora, IgM memory B cells are still generated in germ-free mice, albeit to a reduced extent. Clonal relationships and renewal kinetics after anti-CD20 treatment reveal that this long-lasting splenic population is mainly sustained by output of B cell clones persisting in mucosal germinal centers. IgM-secreting hybridomas established from splenic IgM memory B cells showed reactivity against various bacterial isolates and endogenous retroviruses. Ongoing activation of B cells in gut-associated lymphoid tissues thus generates a diversified systemic compartment showing long-lasting clonal persistence and protective capacity against systemic bacterial infections.
© 2018 Le Gallou et al.