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CRIPES celebrates 50 years of the B cell

Earlier this month CRIPES celebrated 50 years since the discovery of the B-cell with cake (resplendent with antibody biscuits) courtesy of Alex Stewart!

The paper ‘Delineation of the thymic and bursal lymphoid systems in chicken’ was published by Dr Max Cooper and colleagues in Nature on January 9th 1965 (Cooper et al., 1965).

At the time it was known that a mouse without a thymus did not reject skin grafts, suggesting that the thymus was the source lymphocytes that mediated rejection. Antibodies were also thought to be derived only from lymphocytes (plasma cells), but it was not known how this related to skin-graft rejection. Cooper et al. made a series of observations about Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a disease linked to the X chromosome that causes uncontrollable herpes lesions associated with an immunocompromised host. Patients with Wiskott-Sldrich syndrome had high antibody levels, yet boys with an inherited immunodeficient X chromosome could control the infection despite lacking antibody responses. These observations led to the hypothesis that the antibody producing lymphocytes and the lymphocytes involved in skin graft rejection might be two separate entities.

Studies at the time being conducted on chickens found that the bursa of Fabricus, when removed from the chicken, caused poor antibody production (Glick et al., 1956). Removal of organs, including the bursa, had yielded conflicting results with variable antibody production. Coopers solution to this problem was to remove the organ and then irradiate the chicken, theorising that chickens might have developed immune cells before the organs removal. The results revealed that chickens without a bursa produce no antibodies in serum when challenged with bovine serum albumin or Brucella abortus. Despite this, the white pulp region of the spleen that is dependent on the presence of the thymus, remained intact. In 1966 Copper and colleagues published a follow up paper ‘The function of the thymus system and the bursa system in the chicken’ (Cooper et al., 1966). In this paper they revealed that B-cells (bursa-derived) are required for antibody production and that T-cells (thymus-derived) are required for skin-graft rejection. This clearly revealed two separate types of cell that covered all the functions of cellular immunity.

Cooper, M. D., Peterson, D. A. & Good, R. A. 1965. Delineation of the Thymic and Bursal Lymphoid Systems in Chicken. Nature. 205, 143-146.

Cooper, M. D., Peterson, R. D. A., South, M. A. & Good, R. A. 1966. The Functions of the Thymus System and the Bursa System in the Chicken. Journal of Expermental Medicine 123, 75-102.

Glick, B., Chang, T. S. & Jaap, R. G. 1956. The Bursa of Fabricius and Antibody Production. Poultry Science. 35, 224-225.