The absence of alloantibodies is a feature of transplantation tolerance. Although the lack of T cell help has been evoked to explain this absence, herein we provide evidence for B cell-intrinsic tolerance mechanisms. Using a murine model of heart tolerance, we showed that alloreactive B cells were not deleted but rapidly lost their ability to differentiate into germinal center B cells and secrete donor-specific antibodies. We inferred that tolerant alloreactive B cells retained their ability to sense alloantigen because they continued to drive T cell maturation into CXCR5+PD-1+ T follicular helper cells. Unexpectedly, dysfunctional alloreactive B cells acquired the ability to inhibit antibody production by new naive B cells in an antigen-specific manner. Thus, tolerant alloreactive B cells contribute to transplantation tolerance by foregoing germinal center responses while retaining their ability to function as antigen-presenting cells and by actively suppressing de novo alloreactive B cell responses.
Keywords: Antigen presenting cells; B cells; Immunology; Transplantation.