Immune cells that serve as antibody production factories, also known as plasma cells, are the focus of a recent Nature Immunology paper from Jeremy Boss and colleagues.
Plasma cells also appear in Ali Ellebedy and Rafi Ahmed’s recent paper on the precursors of memory B cells and Eun Lee’s work on long-lived antibody-producing cells. In addition, plasma cells appear prominently in Larry Boise’s studies of myeloma, because myeloma cancer cells are thought to come from plasma cells and have a similar biology.
The Boss lab’s paper focuses on patterns of methylation, modifications of DNA that usually help turn genes off. In comparison with resting B cells, plasma cells need to turn on lots of genes, so their DNA methylation level goes down when differentiation occurs (see graph). PC = plasma cells, PB = plasmablasts. DNAme indicates the extent of DNA methylation. Read more
Every time scientists identify genetic risk factors for a human disease or a personality trait, it seems like more weight accumulates on the “nature” side of the grand balance between nature and nurture.
That’s why it’s important to remember how much prenatal and childhood experiences such as education, nutrition, environmental exposures and stress influence later development.
At the Emory/Georgia Tech Predictive Health Symposium in December, biologist Victor Corces outlined this concept using a particularly evocative example: bees. A queen bee and a worker bee share the same DNA, so the only thing that determines whether an insect will become the next queen is whether she consumes royal jelly.
Posted on January 14, 2010