Newborns are unable to mount antibody responses towards certain antigens. This has been related to the restricted repertoire of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes of their B cells. The mechanisms underlying the restricted fetal Ig gene repertoire are currently unresolved. We here addressed this with detailed molecular and cellular analysis of human precursor-B cells from fetal liver, fetal bone marrow (BM), and pediatric BM. In the absence of selection processes, fetal B-cell progenitors more frequently used proximal V, D and J genes in complete IGH gene rearrangements, despite normal Ig locus contraction. Fewer N-nucleotides were added in IGH gene rearrangements in the context of low TdT and XRCC4 expression. Moreover, fetal progenitor-B cells expressed lower levels of IL7Rα than their pediatric counterparts. Analysis of progenitor-B cells from IL7Rα-deficient patients revealed that TdT expression and N-nucleotides additions in Dh-Jh junctions were dependent on functional IL7Rα. Thus, IL7Rα affects TdT expression, and decreased expression of this receptor underlies at least in part the skewed Ig repertoire formation in fetal B-cell precursors. These new insights provide a better understanding of the formation of adaptive immunity in the developing fetus.
- molecular medicine
- VDJ recombination