RAG1 and RAG2 expression by B cell subsets from human tonsil and peripheral blood

H. J. Girschick, A. C. Grammer, T. Nanki, M. Mayo, P. E. Lipsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that B cells acquire the capacity for secondary V(D)J recombination during germinal center (GC) reactions. The nature of these B cells remains controversial. Subsets of tonsil and blood B cells and also individual B cells were examined for the expression of recombination-activating gene (RAG) mRNA. Semiquantitative analysis indicated that RAG1 mRNA was present in all tonsil B cell subsets, with the largest amount found in naive B cells. RAG2 mRNA was only found in tonsil naive B cells, centrocytes, and to a lesser extent in centroblasts. Neither RAG1 nor RAG2 mRNA was routinely found in normal peripheral blood B cells. In individual tonsil B cells, RAG1 and RAG2 mRNAs were found in 18% of naive B cells, 22% of GC founder cells, 0% of centroblasts, 13% of centrocytes, and 9% of memory B cells. Individual naive tonsil B cells containing both RAG1 and RAG2 mRNA were activated (CD69+). In normal peripheral blood ∼5% of B cells expressed both RAG1 and RAG2. These cells were uniformly postswitch memory B cells as documented by the coexpression of IgG mRNA. These results indicate that coordinate RAG expression is not found in normal peripheral naive B cells but is up-regulated in naive B cells which are activated in the tonsil. With the exception of centroblasts, RAG1 and RAG2 expression can be found in all components of the GC, including postswitch memory B cells, some of which may circulate in the blood of normal subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-386
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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