graphical abstract

A regulatory circuit controlling the dynamics of NFκB cRel transitions B cells from proliferation to plasma cell differentiation


Humoral immunity depends on efficient activation of B cells and their subsequent differentiation into antibody-secreting cells (ASCs). The transcription factor NFκB cRel is critical for B cell proliferation, but incorporating its known regulatory interactions into a mathematical model of the ASC differentiation circuit prevented ASC generation in simulations. Indeed, experimental ectopic cRel expression blocked ASC differentiation by inhibiting the transcription factor Blimp1, and in wild-type (WT) cells cRel was dynamically repressed during ASC differentiation by Blimp1 binding the Rel locus. Including this bi-stable circuit of mutual cRel-Blimp1 antagonism into a multi-scale model revealed that dynamic repression of cRel controls the switch from B cell proliferation to ASC generation phases and hence the respective cell population dynamics. Our studies provide a mechanistic explanation of how dysregulation of this bi-stable circuit might result in pathologic B cell population phenotypes and thus offer new avenues for diagnostic stratification and treatment.