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Breakdown of self-tolerance in anergic B lymphocytes


PRODUCTION of autoantibodies, which characterizes most autoimmune diseases, is normally avoided by active elimination1–7 or functional inactivation (anergy) 8–15 of B and T lymphocytes bearing receptors for self antigens. The mechanisms leading to the escape of self-reactive clones from these normal tolerance mechanisms in autoimmune diseases nevertheless remain obscure. Here, we demonstrate that clonal anergy in B lymphocytes is a reversible process, and that silenced self-reactive B cells can be reactivated under particular conditions to give rise to vigorous antibody responses. Reactivation of anergic lymphocytes may explain many examples of transient autoimmune reactions in normal individuals, and may under pathological conditions be important in the development of chronic autoimmune disease.

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Goodnow, C., Brink, R. & Adams, E. Breakdown of self-tolerance in anergic B lymphocytes. Nature 352, 532–536 (1991).

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