Autoreactive B cells arise routinely as part of the naive B cell repertoire. The immune system employs several mechanisms in an attempt to silence these autoreactive cells before they achieve immunocompetence. The BCR plays a central role in B cell development, activation, survival, and apoptosis, and thus is a critical component of the regulation of both protective and autoreactive B cells. The strength of signal mediated by the BCR is determined by numerous factors, both B cell intrinsic and B cell extrinsic. Perturbations in the molecules that regulate the BCR signal strength or that activate pathways that engage in cross talk with the BCR-mediated signaling pathways can lead to the aberrant survival and activation of autoreactive B cells. In this review, we will discuss the some newly identified genetic loci and factors that modulate the BCR signal transduction pathway and, therefore, the regulation of autoreactive B cells. We will also provide evidence for a model of autoreactivity in which a reduction in the strength of the BCR signal allows the survival and the modulation of a naive B cell repertoire replete with autoreactivity.
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