Ageing of the B-cell repertoire

Victoria Martin, Yu-Chang (Bryan) Wu, David Kipling, Deborah Dunn-Walters
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, July 2015, Royal Society Publishing
  • DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0237

B cell repertoire ageing

What is it about?

The immune cells that produce antibodies are extremely important in protecting us from infections/cancer, and need to be carefully controlled to prevent them reacting to self and causing autoimmune disease. These cells are changed as we grow older, which may help to explain why older people are more prone to infections and cancer.

Why is it important?

As our immune system develops, the repertoires of lymphocytes change in response to selective pressure. Positive selection of cells responding to antigen and expanding increases use of some genes, and negative selection, where cells that recognise self and are therefore harmful are deleted, decreases the use of other genes. We can see the effect of selection processes through B cell development by looking at different types of B cells and we see differences in their repertoires. Since the equivalent repertoires in older people also change then this is an indication that the selection events acting in older people may be changed. This could be the reason for the fact that B cell responses in older age are less efficient on the one hand, and show more evidence of autoreactivity on the other.


Professor Deborah K Dunn-Walters
King's College London

There are stand-out differences in the IgG1/IgG2 repertoires. Not something we had been expecting to see. Very interesting. Can't help thinking though that this is leading me back to the "It's all because there isn't any decent T cell help" argument!!

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Deborah K Dunn-Walters