B-cell development

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B-cell development


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USMLE® Step 1 questions

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High Yield Notes

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B-cell development

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USMLE® Step 1 style questions USMLE

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A researcher is studying cells produced by hematopoietic stem cells. One of the cells that is being studied is a lymphocyte that has CD3 and CD8 receptors on its surface. This type of cell originates from the bone marrow. Which of the following is the location where this cell differentiates to become a mature lymphocyte?  

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Antigen-presenting cells (APCs)

B cells as p. 411

B-cell lymphomas p. 730

B cells p. 411

activation p. 101, 103

adaptive immunity p. 97

anergy p. 108

cell surface proteins p. 108

class switching p. 101

disorders of p. 114, 115

functions of p. 99, 411

glucocorticoid effects p. 118

immunodeficiency infections p. 116

in lymph node p. 94

neoplasms p. 437

non-Hodgkin lymphoma p. 436

sirolimus effect p. 118

spleen p. 96

Dendritic cells p. 411

T- and B-cell activation p. 101, 101

“Starry sky” appearance of B cells p. 437


B-cell disorders p. 114


Your immune system is like the military - with two main branches, the innate immune response and the adaptive immune response.

The innate immune response is immediate and non-specific, meaning that although it can distinguish an invader from a human cell, it doesn’t distinguish one invader from another invader.

In contrast, the adaptive immune response is highly specific for each invader, and that’s because the cells of the adaptive immune response have receptors that differentiate friendly bacteria and potentially deadly ones from their unique parts - called antigens.

This adaptive immune response takes days to weeks to become activated, but is also responsible for immunologic memory.

Now, the key cells of the adaptive immune response are the lymphocytes- the B and T cells -which are generated during lymphopoiesis.

Lymphopoiesis has three goals - first, to generate a diverse set of lymphocytes - each with a unique antigen receptor, second, to get rid of lymphocytes that have receptors that are self-reactive meaning that they’ll bind to healthy tissue, and third, to allow lymphocytes that aren’t self-reactive to continue maturing in secondary lymphoid tissue.

Normally, hematopoietic stem cells, within the bone marrow mature into a common lymphoid progenitor cell, which then becomes either a B-cell or a T-cell.

To become a B cell, it has to develop into an immature B-cell in the bone marrow and then complete its maturation into an antibody secreting B cell, called a plasma cell, in the lymph nodes and spleen.

To become a T cell, it has to migrate to the thymus and become a thymocyte, where it completes its development into a mature T cell.

So, “B” for bone marrow and “T” for thymus.


B-cell development consists of a series of cellular transitions, from hematopoietic stem cells into immunocompetent B cells. Depending on the step, these processes take place in different organs namely the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen.

Like any other type of blood cell, B cells originate from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). HSCs give rise to common lymphoid progenitor cells, which in their turn become either B-cells or T-cells. B cell development takes place in a series of six main stages. First, they start as common lymphoid progenitor cells, which become early pro-B cells, then late pro-B cells, next large pre-B cells, then small pre-B cells, and finally, immature B cells. Immature B cells then migrate from the bone marrow into the lymph nodes and spleen to complete the process of maturation.


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