To study the role of the CD40-CD40 ligand interaction in the development of memory B cells and its level of action during primary antibody responses in vivo, mice were injected with a soluble CD40 fusion protein (sCD40-gamma 1), so as to block the interaction. The effects of the treatment on the primary antibody response were reminiscent of hyper-immunoglobulin M (IgM) syndrome (HIMG1): antigen-specific IgG responses were grossly inhibited whereas the IgM response was augmented severalfold. The latter observation suggests that there is a T-dependent, CD40 ligand-independent pathway of B cell activation that leads to IgM responses and that a significant component of the IgM in HIMG1 patients is derived from T-dependent responses. The secondary response was not readily blocked by sCD40-gamma 1 treatment, indicating a relative independence of CD40 ligation of antigen-experienced B cells. The most striking finding from these studies is that the development of memory B cell populations (measured by adoptive transfer) is grossly impaired by administration of sCD40-gamma 1 during the early induction phase of the response. It is surprising that although the generation memory is diminished, there is no quantitative difference in the development of germinal centers. Whereas entry of B cells into the memory cell pathway is dependent on CD40 ligation, the clonal expansion of the potential memory precursors in germinal centers seems not to require a CD40 signal.

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