Proper development and differentiation of B lymphocytes is es sential to ensure that an organism has the ability to mount an effective humoral immune response against foreign antigens. The immune system must maintain a balance between the deletion of harmful self-reactive B cells and the generation of a diverse rep ertoire of B cells that has the ability to recognize an almost un limited array of foreign antigens. The need to delete self-reactive cells is tempered by the need to avoid the generation of large functional holes in the repertoire of foreign antigen-specific B cells that patrol the periphery. To accomplish this, the immune system must reach a compromise by eliminating only the most dangerous autoreactive clones, while allowing less harmful au toreactive B cells to exist in the periphery where they may com plement the organism's ability to mount a rapid response against invading micro-organisms. Those autoreactive cells that do enter the peripheral pool are subject to a number of conditional re straints that effectively attenuate their ability to respond to self antigens. Deleterious alterations in the homeostasis between tolerance induction and recruitment of B cells into the functional repertoire may lead to increased susceptibility to autoimmune disease or infection, respectively. Therefore, delineation of the molecular processes that maintain immunological homeostasis in the B cell compartment is critical.
This volume provides a review of current research in the field of B cell development and differentiation with particular emphasis on signal transduction processes. The volume is divided into two parts that focus, respectively, on the basic biochemical pathways which regulate B cell biology and the role of signal transduction processes in regulating various aspects of B cell function, development and differentiation. The chapters incorporated in part I include discussions of receptor mediated biochemical events that occur at the membrane, the intermediate pathways that transduce activation signals through the cell and, finally, the molecular events which regulate gene transcription in the nucleus of the B cell. In summary, the volume as a whole is designed to provide readers with an overview of signal transduction in the B cell and the role which signaling processes play in regulation of specific physiological events.
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