The human marginal zone B cell

Mariella Dono, Simona Zupo, Monica Colombo, Rosanna Massara, Gianluca Gaidano, Giuseppe Taborelli, Paola Ceppa, Vito L. Burgio, Nicholas Chiorazzi, Manlio Ferrarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study describes the features of the marginal zone (MZ) B cells of human tonsils and spleens and compares them with those of the follicular mantle (FM) B cells from the same tissues. The two B cell subpopulations displayed marked differences in phenotype, in response capacity to T cell-independent antigens and polyclonal B cell activators, and in presentation of antigens to T cells. FM B cells expressed surface CD5, and hence should be considered as B1 cells by current nomenclature. Fractionation of MZ B cells according to the presence or absence of surface IgD revealed the presence of two subsets. These subsets were characterized by different properties, including the presence of Ig VH gene mutations and the response capacity to TI-2 antigens, this latter property being associated with IgD-positive cells. Comparison of the data with those reported for mice revealed that human MZ B cells had strong analogies with both the murine MZ and B1 cells. In contrast, human B1 cells (that is, CD5-positive FM cells) were considerably different, an observation that should prompt further studies. Indeed, B cells with characteristics analogous to those of murine B1 cells were detected in small but definite proportions in the peripheral blood and tonsils. If the current distinction into B1 and B2 cells has to be maintained also for humans, it is likely that only these CD5-positive cells rather than the FM B cells should be called B1 cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-124
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • B1 cells
  • Heterogeneity
  • Marginal zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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