Differential requirements for the canonical NF-κB transcription factors c-REL and RELA during the generation and activation of mature B cells

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Signaling through the canonical nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathway is critical for the generation and maintenance of mature B cells and for antigen-dependent B-cell activation. c-REL (rel) and RELA (rela) are the downstream transcriptional activators of the canonical NF-κB pathway. Studies of B cells derived from constitutionalrelknockout mice and chimeric mice repopulated withrela-/- fetal liver cells provided evidence that the subunits can have distinct roles during B-cell development. However, the B cell-intrinsic functions of c-REL and RELA during B-cell generation and antigen-dependent B-cell activation have not been determinedin vivo. To clarify this issue, we crossed mice with conditionalrelandrelaalleles individually or in combination to mice that express Cre-recombinase in B cells. We here report that, whereas single deletion ofrelorreladid not impair mature B-cell generation and maintenance, their simultaneous deletion led to a dramatic reduction of follicular and marginal zone B cells. Upon T cell-dependent immunization, B cell-specific deletion of the c-REL subunit alone abrogated the formation of germinal centers (GCs), whereasreladeletion did not affect GC formation. T-independent responses were strongly impaired in mice with B cell-specific deletion ofrel, and only modestly in mice with RELA-deficient B cells. Our findings identify differential requirements for the canonical NF-κB subunits c-REL and RELA at distinct stages of mature B-cell development. The subunits are jointly required for the generation of mature B cells. During antigen-dependent B-cell activation, c-REL is the critical subunit required for the initiation of the GC reaction and for optimal T-independent antibody responses, with RELA being largely dispensable at this stage.

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