The germinal center response

Kristy L. Wolniak, Stephen M. Shinall, Thomas J. Waldschmidt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The germinal center reaction is the foundation of T-cell-dependent humoral responses. Antigen-specific B cells recruited into germinal centers undergo a complex cellular program that allows for extensive expansion, isotype switching, somatic hypermutation, and differentiation into antibody-forming cells and memory cells. Importantly, the germinal center environment filters the repertoire of differentiating B cells such that high affinity variants are preferentially selected while low affinity or self-reactive clones are eliminated by apoptosis. The present article reviews the many processes that govern germinal center B-cell differentiation, as well as the cellular and molecular elements necessary to initiate and sustain a germinal center response. The major histologic features of the germinal center are also discussed, as well as the current dominant models of the germinal center reaction in humans and mice. Finally, a new model of murine B-cell differentiation is described on the basis of a multiparameter flow cytometric kinetic analysis of germinal center B cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-65
Number of pages27
JournalCritical reviews in immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004


  • B-cell differentiation
  • B-cell subsets
  • Ectopic germinal centers
  • Germinal center B cells
  • Lymphoid architecture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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