Competition for refueling rather than cyclic reentry initiation evident in germinal centers.
Long Z., Phillips B., Radtke D., Meyer-Hermann M., Bannard O.
Antibody affinity maturation occurs in germinal centers (GCs) through iterative rounds of somatic hypermutation and proliferation in dark zones (DZs) and selection in light zones (LZs). GC B cells exit cell cycle a number of hours before entering LZs; therefore, continued participation in responses requires that they subsequently reenter cell cycle and move back to DZs, a process known as cyclic reentry. Affinity enhancements are thought to arise by B cells having to compete to initiate cyclic reentry each time they enter LZs, with T cell help being a major determinant; however, direct proof is lacking. Using Fucci2 mice, we confirmed an association between B cell receptor affinity and the first step of cyclic reentry, S phase initiation from a resting LZ state. However, neither T cell ablation nor MHCII deletion prevented resting LZ cells from reentering cell cycle, and this late G1-S transition was also not detectably restricted by competition. In contrast, using BATF induction as exemplar, we found that T cells "refueled" LZ cells in an affinity-dependent manner that was limited by both competition and cells' intrinsic antigen-acquiring abilities. Therefore, cyclic reentry initiation and B cell refueling are independently regulated in GCs, which may contribute to permitting cells of different competencies to be sustained alongside each other and allow T cell support to be provided across a dynamic range commensurate with affinity. We speculate that this less binary selection mechanism could help GCs nurture complex antibody maturation pathways and support the clonal diversity required for countering fast-evolving pathogens.