The formation of germinal centers (GC) around follicular dendritic cells (FDC) is a critical step in the humoral immune responses that depends on the cooperative effects of B cells and T cells. Mice deficient in either TNF or lymphotoxin (LT) fail to form both GC and FDC network in B cell follicles. To test a potential complementary effect of TNF and LT, a mixture of bone marrow cells from TNF -/- mice and LTα-/- mice was transferred into irradiated LTα-/- mice or TNF-/- mice. Interestingly, the formation of both GC and FDC clusters in B cell follicles was restored in such chimeric mice, suggesting that TNF and LT from different cells could complement one another. To identify the exact contributions of each subset to the complementary effect of TNF and LT, different sources of T and B cells from LTα-/-mice or TNF-/- mice were used for reconstitution. Our study demonstrates that either T or B cell-derived TNF is sufficient to restore FDC/GC in the presence of LT-expressing B cells. However, TNF itself is not required for GC reactions if the FDC network is already intact. Thus, the development and maintenance of these lymphoid structures depend on a delicate interaction between TNF and LT from different subsets of lymphocytes.
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