Nature 455, 764-769 (9 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07345; Received 8 July 2008; Accepted 15 August 2008

SAP-controlled T–B cell interactions underlie germinal centre formation

Hai Qi1,3, Jennifer L. Cannons2,3, Frederick Klauschen1, Pamela L. Schwartzberg2 & Ronald N. Germain1

  1. Lymphocyte Biology Section, Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA
  2. Genetic Disease Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA
  3. These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Pamela L. Schwartzberg2Ronald N. Germain1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to R.N.G. (Email: or P.L.S. (Email:


Generation of long-term antibody-mediated immunity depends on the germinal centre reaction, which requires cooperation between antigen-specific T and B lymphocytes. In human X-linked lymphoproliferative disease and its gene-targeted mouse model, loss-of-function mutations in signalling lymphocyte activation molecule-associated protein (SAP, encoded by SH2D1a) cause a profound defect in germinal centre formation by an as yet unknown mechanism. Here, using two-photon intravital imaging, we show that SAP deficiency selectively impairs the ability of CD4+ T cells to stably interact with cognate B cells but not antigen-presenting dendritic cells. This selective defect results in a failure of antigen-specific B cells to receive adequate levels of contact-dependent T-cell help to expand normally, despite Sap -/- T cells exhibiting the known characteristics of otherwise competent helper T cells. Furthermore, the lack of stable interactions with B cells renders Sap -/- T cells unable to be efficiently recruited to and retained in a nascent germinal centre to sustain the germinal centre reaction. These results offer an explanation for the germinal centre defect due to SAP deficiency and provide new insights into the bi-directional communication between cognate T and B cells in vivo.