Antibody production is an important feature of the vertebrate immune system. Antibodies neutralize and clear pathogens, thereby protecting against infectious diseases. Such humoral immunity has great longevity, often persisting for the host's lifetime. Long-lived humoral immunity depends on help provided by CD4(+) T cells, namely T follicular helper (TFH) cells, which support the differentiation of antigen-specific B cells into memory and plasma cells.
We have previously shown that immunization with SIV-, SHIV-, or HA (influenza hemagglutinin)-virus-like particles (VLPs) elicits a strong humoral immune response in mice. However, little is known about the action VLPs exert on immune effector cells, including B cells. In this study, we found that all three types of VLPs could directly bind and activate B cells in vitro. VLPs stimulated the proliferation of B220(+)IgM(+)CD43(-)CD5(-) B2 cells and their differentiation to plasma cells that preferentially produce IgG2a antibodies.