The microanatomic segregation of selection by apoptosis in the germinal center
env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
B cells undergo rapid cell division and affinity maturation in anatomically distinct sites in lymphoid organs called germinal centers (GCs). Homeostasis is maintained in part by B cell apoptosis. However, the precise contribution of apoptosis to GC biology and selection is not well defined. We developed apoptosis-indicator mice and used them to visualize, purify, and characterize dying GC B cells. Apoptosis is prevalent in the GC with up to half of all GC B cells dying every 6 hours. Moreover, programmed cell death is differentially regulated in the light zone (LZ) and the dark zone (DZ): LZ B cells die by default if they are not positively selected, whereas DZ cells die when their antigen receptors are damaged by activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID).