Naive B cells can be induced to proliferate in culture and can produce cells with a phenotype similar to germinal centre B cells. The findings, published in Nature Communications, suggest that this method can be used to propagate B cells in vitro facilitating the study of germinal centre B cell differentiation.
Daisuke Kitamura and colleagues culture B cells from mice on feeder cells in the presence of interleukin and show that this enhances the number of proliferating cells 180-fold after 6 days. The cells could also be transferred into mice and differentiate into memory B cell-like cells and can produce antibodies. Alternatively the cells can be cultured with another interleukin, IL-21, and to generate cells that are similar to long lived plasma cells.
This method allows the manipulation of the fate of B cells in culture and may permit the more in depth study of the differentiation of these cells.