News Release

Tracking plasma cell survival

Researchers led by Osaka University use a novel tracing method to track the survival of antibody-producing plasma cells

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Osaka University

Fig. 1

image: Most of plasma cells that arrive at bone marrow are short-lived B220(hi) MHC-II(hi) cells. A small fraction of them become immobilized to bone marrow niches and progressively differentiate into long-lived B220(lo) MHC-II(lo) cells. view more 

Credit: Koike et al.

Osaka, Japan – Just as a fire department mobilizes in response to a reported fire, specialized immune cells in the body mobilize in response to the introduction of foreign substances known as antigens. Plasma cells are an important type of immune cell that release antibodies (or protective proteins) that act to neutralize antigens. Recently, researchers from Japan have shed new light on the survival of plasma cells in the body.

In a recent study published in Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers led by Osaka University have employed a novel experimental system to trace the development and longevity of plasma cells over time.

Plasma cells are generated by the spleen and lymphoid organs in response to antigen exposure. Many plasma cells die shortly after participating in an immune response, but a small population of plasma cells called long-lived plasma cells (LLPCs) can survive in the body for months or even years. The researchers sought to explore the dynamics of this LLPC population to better understand how antibody-mediated immunity is maintained in the body.

“Our goal was to track the long-term survival of plasma cells,” says lead author of the study Takuya Koike. “To this end, we designed a mouse model in which plasma cells in the spleen and bone marrow were labeled by a fluorescent reporter in response to a specific drug treatment.”

The researchers monitored the survival of fluorescently labeled plasma cells in the spleen, bone marrow, and gut for over a year and found that the frequency of fluorescent plasma cells decreased to less than 60% within 1 month, and as low as 3%–20% within 1 year. The bone marrow appeared to contain more fluorescent plasma cells at one year than the spleen or gut, indicating that LLPCs may preferentially reside in bone marrow niches.

“Our results indicated that the plasma cell population likely experiences frequent turnover, with new plasma cells replenishing the cells that are lost over time, while only a small portion of cells differentiates into LLPCs,” explains senior author Wataru Ise. Analysis of another mouse model in which only newly generated plasma cells were labeled allowed the researchers to identify specific molecular markers that can distinguish LLPCs from short-lived plasma cells.

These findings provide deeper insights into the longevity of plasma cells. Better understanding of the LLPC population may aid in the development of new vaccines that efficiently induce the generation of LLPCs, thereby strengthening the body’s antibody-mediated immune response.


The article, “Progressive differentiation towards the long-lived plasma cell compartment in the bone marrow,” was published in Journal of Experimental Medicine at DOI:

About Osaka University

Osaka University was founded in 1931 as one of the seven imperial universities of Japan and is now one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities with a broad disciplinary spectrum. This strength is coupled with a singular drive for innovation that extends throughout the scientific process, from fundamental research to the creation of applied technology with positive economic impacts. Its commitment to innovation has been recognized in Japan and around the world, being named Japan's most innovative university in 2015 (Reuters 2015 Top 100) and one of the most innovative institutions in the world in 2017 (Innovative Universities and the Nature Index Innovation 2017). Now, Osaka University is leveraging its role as a Designated National University Corporation selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to contribute to innovation for human welfare, sustainable development of society, and social transformation.


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