TO B OR NOT TO B
Little is known about the factors that control a critical step in antibody production, the differentiation of mature activated B cells into antibody-secreting plasma cells. This week (Nature, Vol. 412, No. 6844, 19 Jul 2001), Laurie H. Glimcher of Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues, show that a protein called ‘XBP-1’ seems to precipitate B-cell differentiation.
The immune system has two lines of defence against foreign invaders. T cells kill virally infected or malignant cells, and antibodies are released into the bloodstream by plasma cells, which are specialized B cells that no longer divide. Antibodies are involved in many autoimmune diseases, so studies of autoimmunity would benefit greatly from a better understanding of plasma cells.
"The discovery of a protein required for the production of plasma cells will give immunologists a better idea of how they develop," says Kathryn Calame of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, in an accompanying News and Views article.
Laurie H Glimcher
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(C) Nature press release.
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