Molecular Control of B Cell Activation and Immunological Synapse Formation

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B cells form an essential part of the adaptive immune system by producing specific antibodies that can neutralize toxins and target infected or malignant cells for destruction. During B cell activation, a fundamental role is played by a specialized intercellular structure called the immunological synapse (IS). The IS serves as a platform for B cell recognition of foreign, often pathogenic, antigens on the surface of antigen-presenting cells (APC). This recognition is elicited by highly specific B cell receptors (BCR) that subsequently trigger carefully orchestrated intracellular signaling cascades that lead to cell activation. Furthermore, antigen internalization, essential for full B cell activation and differentiation into antibody producing effector cells or memory cells, occurs in the IS. Recent developments especially in various imaging-based methods have considerably advanced our understanding of the molecular control of B cell activation. Interestingly, the cellular cytoskeleton is emerging as a key player at several stages of B cell activation, including the initiation of receptor signaling. Here, we discuss the functions and molecular mechanisms of the IS and highlight the multifaceted role of the actin cytoskeleton in several aspects of B cell activation.

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