Previous studies in rodents have indicated that only a minor fraction of the immunoglobulin heavy chain variable region (IGHV-Cμ) transcripts carry somatic mutations and are considered memory B cells. This is in marked contrast to humans where nearly all marginal zone B (MZ-B) cells are mutated. Here we show in rats that the proportion of mutated IgM+ MZ-B cells varies significantly between the various IGHV genes analyzed, ranging from 27% mutated IGHV5 transcripts to 65% mutated IGHV4 transcripts. The observed data on mutated sequences in clonally-related B cells with a MZ-B cell or follicular B (FO-B) cell phenotype indicates that mutated IgM+ MZ-B and FO-B cells have a common origin. To further investigate the origin of mutated IgM+ MZ-B cells we determined whether mutations occurred in rearranged IGHV-Cμ transcripts using IGHV4 and IGHV5 genes from neonatal rat MZ-B cells and FO-B cells. We were not able to detect mutations in any of the IGHV4 and IGHV5 genes expressed by MZ-B cells or FO-B cells obtained from neonatal rat spleens. Germinal centres (GCs) are absent from neonatal rat spleen in the first few weeks of their life, and no mutations were found in any of the neonatal sequences, not even in the IGHV4 gene family which accumulates the highest number of mutated sequences (66%) in the adult rat. Therefore, these data do not support the notion that MZ-B cells in rats mutate their IGHV genes as part of their developmental program, but are consistent with the notion that mutated rat MZ-B cells require GCs for their generation. Our findings support that the splenic MZ of rats harbors a significant number of memory type IgM+ MZ-B cells with mutated IGHV genes and propose that these memory MZ-B cells are probably generated as a result of an antigen driven immune response in GCs, which still remains to be proven.
- Immunoglobulin M/genetics
- Immunoglobulin Variable Region/genetics
- Immunologic Memory