Immunological memory is required for protection against repeated infections and is the basis of all effective vaccines. Antibodies produced by memory B cells play an essential role in many of these responses. We have combined lineage tracing with antibody cloning from single B cells to examine the role of affinity in B cell selection into germinal centers (GCs) and the memory B cell compartment in mice immunized with an HIV-1 antigen. We find that contemporaneously developing memory and GC B cells differ in their affinity for antigen throughout the immune response. Whereas GC cells and their precursors are enriched in antigen binding, memory B cells are not. Thus, the polyclonal memory B cell compartment is composed of B cells that were activated during the immune response but whose antigen binding affinity failed to support further clonal expansion in the GC.
Keywords: antibody affinity; memory B cell.
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