While the intrinsic apoptosis pathway is thought to play a central role in shaping the B cell lineage, its precise role in mature B cell homeostasis remains elusive. Using mice in which mature B cells are unable to undergo apoptotic cell death, we show that apoptosis constrains follicular B (FoB) cell lifespan but plays no role in marginal zone B (MZB) cell homeostasis. In these mice, FoB cells accumulate abnormally. This intensifies intercellular competition for BAFF, resulting in a contraction of the MZB cell compartment, and reducing the growth, trafficking, and fitness of FoB cells. Diminished BAFF signaling dampens the non-canonical NF-κB pathway, undermining FoB cell growth despite the concurrent triggering of a protective p53 response. Thus, MZB and FoB cells exhibit a differential requirement for the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. Homeostatic apoptosis constrains the size of the FoB cell compartment, thereby preventing competition-induced FoB cell atrophy.
Keywords: BAFF; NF-κB; cell growth; cellular lifespan; follicular B cells; intercellular competition; intrinsic apoptosis; marginal zone B cells; mature B cell homeostasis; p53.
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