The antigen receptors on T and B lymphocytes can transduce both agonist and antagonist signals leading either to activation/survival or anergy/death. The outcome of B lymphocyte antigen receptor (BCR) triggering depends upon multiple parameters which include (a) antigen concentration and valency, (b) duration of BCR occupancy, (c) receptor affinity, and (d) B cell differentiation stages. Herein, using anti-immunoglobulin kappa and lambda light chain antibodies, we analyzed the response of human naive, germinal center (GC) or memory B cells to BCR cross-linking regardless of heavy chain Ig isotype or intrinsic BCR specificity. We show that after CD40-activation, anti-BCR (kappa + gamma) can elicit an intracellular calcium flux on both GC and non-GC cells. However, prolonged BCR cross-linking induces death of CD40-activated GC B cells but enhances proliferation of naive or memory cells. Anti-kappa antibody only kills kappa + GC B cells without affecting surrounding gamma + GC B cells, thus demonstrating that BCR-mediated killing of GC B lymphocytes is a direct effect that does not involve a paracrine mechanism. BCR-mediated killing of CD40-activated GC B cells could be partially antagonized by the addition of IL-4. Moreover, in the presence of IL-4, prestimulation through CD40 could prevent subsequent anti-Ig-mediated cell death, suggesting a specific role of this combination in selection of GC B cells. This report provides evidence that in human, susceptibility to BCR killing is regulated along peripheral B cell differentiation pathway.

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