Indexed on: 14 Jul '01Published on: 14 Jul '01Published in: Science
Vaccination for persistent viral or bacterial infections must program the immune system for a lifelong need to generate antigen-specific effector lymphocytes. How the immune system does this is not known, but recent studies have shown that a subset of B lymphocytes, the germinal center B cell, is capable of self-renewal because it expresses a transcriptional repressor, BCL6, that blocks terminal differentiation. If a similar mechanism for arresting differentiation exists for long-lived, antigen-selected lymphocytes, a stem cell-like capacity for self-renewal could be the basis for the continual generation of effector lymphocytes from the memory pool. Understanding how to regulate the terminal differentiation of lymphocytes will improve immunotherapeutic approaches for chronic infectious diseases and cancer.