B cells are selected by the binding of antigen to clonally distributed B cell receptors (BCRs), triggering signalling cascades that result in B cell activation. With the recent application of high-resolution live-cell imaging, we are gaining an understanding of the events that initiate BCR signalling within seconds of its engagement with antigen. These observations are providing a molecular explanation for fundamental aspects of B cell responses, including antigen affinity discrimination and the value of class switching, as well as insights into the underlying causes of B cell tumorigenesis. Advances in our understanding of the earliest molecular events that follow antigen binding to the BCR may provide a general framework for the initiation of signalling in the adaptive immune system.
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