Age-related aspects of human IgM+ B cell heterogeneity

Victoria Martin, Yu-Chang Wu, David Kipling, Deborah K. Dunn-Walters
  • Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, July 2015, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12823

IgM B cells important in ageing

What is it about?

"IgM memory" B cells are thought to be important because they react to bacterial polysaccharides and don't need so much help from other cells. So in the beginnings of a bacterial infection they help a lot in defence. Older people suffer more from bacterial infections than younger adults. Here we show that the "IgM memory" B cell population that we generally look at is actually made up of a few different kinds of cells. Small variations in the level of the antibody on the surface. The relative proportions of these groups changes a lot with age. Understanding what these different groups do will help us understand how to better protect older people from bacterial infections.

Why is it important?

Older people are more prone to bacterial infections, and have greater morbidity. The immune system is complex, with a large number of different cells and molecules acting in balance to protect us. This paper shows we need to look closely at "IgM memory" B cells as the culprits responsible for poor bacterial defences in ageing.


Professor Deborah K Dunn-Walters
King's College London

20 years ago I showed that IgM B cells in the marginal zone of the spleen had mutations in their Ig genes which meant they were not, as had previously been thought, naive B cells. Rather they were cells that had reacted to foreign antigen in some way. Since then we have learned that these "IgM memory" B cells are T-independent responders important in bacterial infections and this paper has shown that not only does the population as a whole decrease with age, but subsets of cells within this population change significantly with age.

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