IL-21 and CD40L synergistically promote plasma cell differentiation through upregulation of Blimp-1 in human B cells

B. Belinda Ding, Enguang Bi, Hongshan Chen, J. Jessica Yu, B. Hilda Ye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

65 Scopus citations


After undergoing Ig somatic hypermutation and Ag selection, germinal center (GC) B cells terminally differentiate into either memory or plasma cells (PCs). It is known that the CD40L and IL-21/STAT3 signaling pathways play critical roles in this process, yet it is unclear how the B cell transcription program interprets and integrates these two types of T cell-derived signals. In this study, we characterized the role of STAT3 in the GC-associated PC differentiation using purified human tonsillar GC B cells and a GC B cell-like cell line. When primary GC B cells were cultured under PC differentiation condition, STAT3 inhibition by AG490 prevented the transition from GC centrocytes to preplasmablast, suggesting that STAT3 is required for the initiation of PC development. In a GC B cell-like human B cell line, although IL-21 alone can induce low-level Blimp-1 expression, maximum Blimp-1 upregulation and optimal PC differentiation required both IL-21 and CD40L. CD40L, although having no effect on Blimp-1 as a single agent, greatly augmented the amplitude and duration of IL-21-triggered Jak-STAT3 signaling. In the human PRDM1 locus, CD40L treatment enhanced the ability of STAT3 to upregulate Blimp-1 by removing BCL6, a potent inhibitor of Blimp-1 expression, from a shared BCL6/STAT3 site in intron 3. Thus, IL-21 and CD40L collaborate through at least two distinct mechanisms to synergistically promote Blimp-1 activation and PC differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1827-1836
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2013


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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