Antibody affinity maturation depends on the formation of germinal centers (GCs) in lymph nodes. This process generates a massive number of apoptotic B cells, which are removed by a specialized subset of phagocytes, known as tingible body macrophages (TBMs). Although defects in these cells are associated with pathological conditions, the identity of their precursors and the dynamics of dying GC B cell disposal remained unknown. Here, we demonstrate that TBMs originate from pre-existing lymph node–resident precursors that enter the lymph node follicles in a GC-dependent manner. Intravital imaging shows that TBMs are stationary cells that selectively phagocytose GC B cells via highly dynamic protrusions and accommodate the final stages of B cell apoptosis. Cell-specific depletion and chimeric mouse models revealed that GC B cells drive TBM formation from bone marrow–derived precursors stationed within lymphoid organs prior to the immune challenge. Understanding TBM dynamics and function may explain the emergence of various antibody-mediated autoimmune conditions.

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