Recent in vitro studies have established that activated B cells express OX40 ligand (L), a member of the tumor necrosis factor/nerve growth factor family of cytokines, and become stimulated to proliferate and secrete immunoglobulin (Ig) after cross-linking of OX40L by its counterreceptor OX40, which is expressed on activated T cells. In the present study we investigated the in vivo role of this receptor-ligand pair for the interaction of T and B cells in the course of the T-dependent B cell response against 2,4,6 trinitro-phenyl-keyhole limpet hemocyanin. First, we showed that OX40 is maximally expressed by T cells in the periarteriolar lymphoid sheath (PALS) 3 d after primary immunization. These OX40+ cells are located in close proximity to antigen-specific, activated B cells. Second, we demonstrated that blocking of OX40-OX40L interaction with polyclonal anti-OX40 antibody or with antibodies against certain peptide sequences within its extracellular domain resulted in a profound decrease of the anti-hapten IgG response, whereas the antihapten IgM response was grossly unchanged. Third, we showed that this antibody treatment leads to an inhibition of the development of PALS-associated B cell foci, whereas the formation of germinal centers remained intact. Finally, our data suggest that, whereas B cell memory development was not impaired by anti-OX40 administration, OX40-OX40L interaction seems to be crucial in the secondary immune response. We conclude from these data that the OX40-OX40L interaction in vivo is necessary for the differentiation of activated B cells into highly Ig-producing cells, but is not involved in other pathways of antigen-driven B cell differentiation such as memory cell development in the germinal centers.

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