Newborns are unable to mount antibody responses towards certain antigens. This has been related to the restricted repertoire of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes of their B cells. The mechanisms underlying the restricted fetal Ig gene repertoire are currently unresolved. We here addressed this with detailed molecular and cellular analysis of human precursor-B cells from fetal liver, fetal bone marrow (BM), and pediatric BM. In the absence of selection processes, fetal B-cell progenitors more frequently used proximal V, D and J genes in complete IGH gene rearrangements, despite normal Ig locus contraction. Fewer N-nucleotides were added in IGH gene rearrangements in the context of low TdT and XRCC4 expression. Moreover, fetal progenitor-B cells expressed lower levels of IL7Rα than their pediatric counterparts. Analysis of progenitor-B cells from IL7Rα-deficient patients revealed that TdT expression and N-nucleotides additions in Dh-Jh junctions were dependent on functional IL7Rα. Thus, IL7Rα affects TdT expression, and decreased expression of this receptor underlies at least in part the skewed Ig repertoire formation in fetal B-cell precursors. These new insights provide a better understanding of the formation of adaptive immunity in the developing fetus.

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Journal Scientific Reports
Rother, M.B, Jensen, K, van der Burg, M, Van De Bovenkamp, F.S. (Fleur S.), Kroek, R. (Roel), van IJcken, W.F.J, … van Zelm, M.C. (2016). Decreased IL7Rα and TdT expression underlie the skewed immunoglobulin repertoire of human B-cell precursors from fetal origin. Scientific Reports, 6. doi:10.1038/srep33924