B cell clones compete for entry into and dominance within germinal centers (GCs), where the highest-affinity B cell receptors (BCRs) are selected. However, diverse and low-affinity B cells can enter and reside in GCs for extended periods. To reconcile these observations, we hypothesize that a negative feedback loop may operate within B cells to preferentially restrain high-affinity clones from monopolizing the early GC niche. Here, we report a role for the nuclear receptor NUR77/Nr4a1 in this process. We show that NUR77 expression scales with antigen stimulation and restrains B cell expansion. Although NUR77 is dispensable for regulating GC size when GCs are elicited in a largely clonal manner, it serves to curb immunodominance under conditions where diverse clonal populations must compete for a constrained niche. We propose that this is important to preserve early clonal diversity in order to limit holes in the post-immune repertoire and to optimize GC selection.
Keywords: B cell; NUR77; Nr4a1; clonal competition; clonal diversity; germinal center; humoral immune response; immunodominance.
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