Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

John Tew

Second Advisor

Daniel Conrad

Third Advisor

Ronald Smeltz

Fourth Advisor

Andras Szakal

Fifth Advisor

Kimber White


Follicular dendritic cells (FDCs) reside in primary B-cell follicles and in the light zones of germinal centers (GCs) in secondary follicles, where their dendrites interdigitate forming extensive networks intimately interacting with B-cells. In GCs, FDCs can be found at the edges attached to the supporting reticular fibers. They trap and arrange immune complexes (ICs) in vivo and in vitro in a periodic manner with 200–500Å spacing and provide both antigen-specific and non-specific accessory signals to B-cells. FDCs exist in resting and activated states, with two characteristically different phenotypes. In their activated state, FDCs upregulate the expression of accessory molecules and cytokines important in the FDC-B cell interaction in GCs. We sought to determine the mechanisms influencing the transition of FDCs from a resting to an activated state in GCs and their impact on T-cell dependent (TD) and independent (TI)-GC reactions (GCRs). We found that IC-FDC interactions via FDC-FcgammaRIIB induce the upregulation of FDC-FcgammaRIIB, -ICAM-1, and -VCAM-1, at both the protein and mRNA levels. We also reported for the first time the expression of TLR-4 on FDCs. Moreover, engagement of FDC-TLR4 with LPS activated NF-kappaB, up-regulated expression of important FDC-accessory molecules, including FcgammaRIIB, ICAM-1, and VCAM-1, and enhanced FDC accessory activity in promoting recall IgG responses. Moreover, IC-activated FDCs produced IL-6 and FDC-IL-6 promoted GCRs, somatic hypermutation (SHM) and IgG production. Further, we reported that binding of FDCs to collagen coated surfaces induced restoration of their dendritic processes and networks in vitro. In addition, we designed an FDC-supported in vitro model capable of induction and assessment of primary human antibody responses to protein antigens characterized by class-switching and affinity maturation. Uniquely, we generated TI immune responses to TD protein Ags in the complete absence of T cell help in vivo and in vitro. In the presence of FDC-associated second signals such as BAFF and C4BP, FDC- FcgammaRIIB-periodically trapped-ICs induced the production of Ag-specific IgM, GC-development and plasmablast-differentiation in anti-Thy-1-pretreated nude mice. Purified murine and human B cells cultured in vitro with IC-bearing FDCs also showed the production of antigen–specific IgM within just 48 h.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2009