During T cell-dependent antibody responses lymph node B cells differentiate either to plasmablasts that grow in the medullary cords, or to blasts that proliferate in follicles forming germinal centers. Many plasmablasts differentiate to plasma cells locally, but some leave the medullary cords and migrate to downstream lymph nodes. To assess the basis for this migration, changes in the responsiveness of B cells to a range of chemokines have been studied as they differentiate. Naive B cells express high levels of CCR6, CCR7, CXCR4 and CXCR5. When activated B cells grow in follicles the expression of these chemokine receptors and the responsiveness to the respective chemokines is retained. During the extrafollicular response, plasmablast expression of CXCR5 and responsiveness to B-lymphocyte chemoattractant (CXCR5) as well as to secondary lymphoid tissue chemokine (CCR7) and stromal cell-derived factor (SDF)-1 (CXCR4) are lost while a weak response towards the CCR6 chemokine LARC is maintained. Despite losing responsiveness to SDF-1, extrafollicular plasmablasts still express high levels of CXCR4 on the cell surface. These results suggest that the combined loss of chemokine receptor expression and of chemokine responsiveness may be a necessary prerequisite for cells to migrate to the medullary cords and subsequently enter the efferent lymph.
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