Interleukin-21 drives proliferation and differentiation of porcine memory B cells into antibody secreting cells

Michael C. Rahe, Michael P. Murtaugh

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13 Scopus citations


Immunological prevention of infectious disease, especially viral, is based on antigen-specific long-lived memory B cells. To test for cellular proliferation and differentiation factors in swine, an outbred model for humans, CD21+ B cells were activated in vitro with CD40L and stimulated with purported stimulatory cytokines to characterize functional responses. IL-21 induced a 3-fold expansion in total cell numbers with roughly 15% of all B cells differentiating to IgM or IgG antibody secreting cells (ASCs.) However, even with robust proliferation, cellular viability rapidly deteriorated. Therefore, a proliferation inducing ligand (APRIL) and B cell activating factor (BAFF) were evaluated as survival and maintenance factors. BAFF was effective at enhancing the viability of mature B cells as well as ASCs, while APRIL was only effective for ASCs. Both cytokines increased approximately two-fold the amount of IgM and IgG which was secreted by IL-21 differentiated ASCs. Mature B cells from porcine reproductive and respiratory virus (PRRSV) immune and naïve age-matched pigs were activated and treated with IL-21 and then tested for memory cell differentiation using a PRRSV non-structural protein 7 ELISPOT and ELISA. PRRSV immune pigs were positive on both ELISPOT and ELISA while naïve animals were negative on both assays. These results highlight the IL-21-driven expansion and differentiation of memory B cells in vitro without stimulation of the surface immunoglobulin receptor complex, as well as the establishment of a defined memory B cell culture system for characterization of vaccine responses in outbred animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0171171
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Rahe, Murtaugh. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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