Letter | Published:

Transformation, in vivo, of Basophilic Lymph Cells into Plasma Cells

Naturevolume 214pages183185 (1967) | Download Citation



IT has been shown that large, rapidly dividing basophilic cells containing specific antibody appear in the efferent lymph about 70–100 h after a lymph node receives an antigenic stimulus1,2. Electron microscope investigations3,4 showed that while the cytoplasm of these basophilic cells contained large amounts of ribosomal material, often arranged in rosettes or spirals, there was little endoplasmic reticulum even though some of these cells could be shown to be synthesizing and releasing antibody5. The hypothesis has been advanced3 that these mobile, lymphborne cells are able to colonize lymphoid tissue remote from the site of antigenic stimulation and thus bring about the propagation of the systemic immune response. Experimental support for this “messenger” concept was provided by draining off the lymph from locally stimulated lymph nodes in sheep. When this was done no circulating antibody appeared in the blood, but when the washed lymph cells were injected into an effectively syngeneic recipient sheep (a chimaeric twin) a high titre of antibody was later detected in the blood of the recipient3. The simplest explanation of these results is that, in the intact animal, the basophilic cells, which are released into the lymph by the node that receives the actual antigenic stimulus, enter other lymph nodes and then develop an extensive endoplasmic reticulum and so become the classical plasma cells that are responsible for the actual synthesis and release of most antibody protein. In order to test this proposition the basophilic cells in the efferent lymph from an antigenically stimulated node were labelled in vitro with tritiated thymidine. The labelled cells were then infused by way of an afferent lymphatic into another lymph node of the same sheep. 24 h later the node that had received the infusion of labelled cells was excised and immediately fixed. Autoradiographs of sections of the lymph node were prepared and then examined in the electron microscope. In this way it was possible to observe the changes in the ultrastructure of the labelled basophilic cells that had occurred during 24 h in the environment of a lymph node.

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  1. Chester Beatty Research Institute, Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Cancer Hospital, Fulham Road, London

    • M. S. C. BIRBECK
  2. Agricultural Research Council, Institute of Animal Physiology, Babraham, Cambridge

    • J. G. HALL


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