Ubiquitin-mediated fluctuations in MHC class II facilitate efficient germinal center B cell responses
Bannard O., McGowan SJ., Ersching J., Ishido S., Victora GD., Shin J-S., Cyster JG.
Antibody affinity maturation occurs in germinal centers (GCs) through iterative rounds of somatic hypermutation and selection. Selection involves B cells competing for T cell help based on the amount of antigen they capture and present on their MHC class II (MHCII) proteins. How GC B cells are able to rapidly and repeatedly transition between mutating their B cell receptor genes and then being selected shortly after is not known. We report that MHCII surface levels and degradation are dynamically regulated in GC B cells. Through ectopic expression of a photoconvertible MHCII-mKikGR chimeric gene, we found that individual GC B cells differed in the rates of MHCII protein turnover. Fluctuations in surface MHCII levels were dependent on ubiquitination and the E3 ligase March1. Increases in March1 expression in centroblasts correlated with decreases in surface MHCII levels, whereas CD83 expression in centrocytes helped to stabilize MHCII at that stage. Defects in MHCII ubiquitination caused GC B cells to accumulate greater amounts of a specific peptide–MHCII (pMHCII), suggesting that MHCII turnover facilitates the replacement of old complexes. We propose that pMHCII complexes are periodically targeted for degradation in centroblasts to favor the presentation of recently acquired antigens, thereby promoting the fidelity and efficiency of selection.