Antibodies made by B cells are critically important for immune protection to a variety of infectious agents.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that B cells do more than make antibodies and that B cells can both enhance
and suppress immune responses. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that B cells modulate cellular immune responses
by antibody dependent and independent mechanisms. Although we have a good understanding of the roles played by antibody-
secreting effector B cells during immune responses, we know very little about the Ab independent “effector” functions
of B cells in either health or disease. Given the recent data suggesting that B cells may contribute to autoimmune
disease pathogenesis via an antibody independent mechanism and the increasing use of B cell depletion therapy in autoimmune
patients, investigators are beginning to reassess the multiple roles for B cells during immune responses. In this article,
we review data describing how B cells mediate protection to pathogens independently of antibody production. In
particular, we will focus on the role that B cells play in facilitating dendritic cell and T cell interactions in lymph nodes,
the importance of antigen-presenting B cells in sustaining effector T cell and T follicular helper responses to pathogens
and the relevance of cytokine-producing effector and regulatory B cells in immune responses.
Keywords: B lymphocytes, antigen presentation, infectious disease, cytokines, antibody, immune protection, infectious agents, immune responses, B cell depletion therapy, sustaining effector, cytokine-producing, immunopathology, autoimmune patients, pathogenesis, clinical remission
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