B cell-activating factor belonging to the TNF family (BAFF) plays a critical role in B cell maturation, yet its precise role in B cell differentiation into Ig-secreting cells (ISCs) remains unclear. In this study, we find that upon isolation human naive and memory B (MB) cells have prebound BAFF on their surface, whereas germinal center (GC) B cells lack detectable levels of prebound BAFF. We attribute their lack of prebound BAFF to cell activation, because we demonstrate that stimulation of naive and MB cells results in the loss of prebound BAFF. Furthermore, the absence of prebound BAFF on GC B cells is not related to a lack of BAFF-binding receptors or an inability to bind exogenous BAFF. Instead, our data suggest that accessibility to soluble BAFF is limited within GCs, perhaps to prevent skewing of the conventional B cell differentiation program. In support of this concept, whereas BAFF significantly enhances ISC differentiation in response to T cell-dependent activation, we report for the first time the ability of BAFF to considerably attenuate ISC differentiation of MB cells in response to CpG stimulation, a form of T cell-independent activation. Our data suggest that BAFF may be providing regulatory signals during specific T cell-independent events, which protect the balance between MB cells and ISCs outside GCs. Taken together, these data define a complex role for BAFF in humoral immune responses and show for the first time that BAFF can also play an inhibitory role in B cell differentiation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy