B cells use mechanical energy to discriminate antigen affinities

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The generation of high-affinity antibodies depends on the ability of B cells to extract antigens from the surfaces of antigen-presenting cells. B cells that express high-affinity B cell receptors (BCRs) acquire more antigen and obtain better T cell help. However, the mechanisms by which B cells extract antigen remain unclear. Using fluid and flexible membrane substrates to mimic antigen-presenting cells, we showed that B cells acquire antigen by dynamic myosin IIa-mediated contractions that pull out and invaginate the presenting membranes. The forces generated by myosin IIa contractions ruptured most individual BCR-antigen bonds and promoted internalization of only high-affinity, multivalent BCR microclusters. Thus, B cell contractility contributes to affinity discrimination by mechanically testing the strength of antigen binding.

Journal details

Journal Science
Volume 340
Issue number 6140
Pages 1587-1590
Publication date