Human immune response to pneumococcal polysaccharides: complement-mediated localization preferentially on CD21-positive splenic marginal zone B cells and follicular dendritic cells

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1996 Apr;97(4):1015-24. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(96)80078-9.


A functionally intact spleen with a marginal zone, containing B cells with high density of surface C3d-receptors (CD21), is essential for the ability to induce a primary immune response to thymus-independent type 2 (TI-2) antigens. Main representatives of natural TI-2 antigens are capsular pneumococcal polysaccharides (PPSs). In this study the localization of different types of PPS antigen is determined in human spleen tissue. Our findings indicate that a main type of TI-2 antigen, PPS, localizes preferentially in the marginal zone. PPSs show co-localization with C3, presumably C3d, at the surface of strongly CD21+ B cells equipped for rapid activation. This enables a rapid primary humoral response. The other main PPS localization at follicular dendritic cells in germinal centers, relevant for isotype switching of anti-PPS antibodies, does not seem to be dependent on the presence of specific immunoglobulin. This may explain the finding of specific IgG in an early stage after antigenic challenge. It seems likely that complement C3 fragments (likely C3d), bound to PPSs, enable PPS localization at B-cell and follicular dendritic cell surfaces by binding to CD21, the C3d receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • B-Lymphocytes / classification
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD3 Complex / immunology
  • Complement System Proteins / physiology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Sera / chemistry
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / microbiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Specificity / immunology
  • Palatine Tonsil / immunology
  • Palatine Tonsil / microbiology
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Receptors, Complement 3d*
  • Spleen / anatomy & histology
  • Spleen / immunology*
  • Spleen / microbiology
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / immunology*


  • CD3 Complex
  • Immune Sera
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Receptors, Complement 3d
  • Complement System Proteins