Phenotypic alterations occur when resting human B lymphocytes become germinal center (GC) cells. These include the induction of surface CD38, CD95 (FAS/APO-1), and carboxy-peptidase-M (CPM), a recently described GC marker. However, the factors that govern the in vivo induction of these surface molecules on B cells remain unknown. Here, we purified resting (CD38-) human B lymphocytes from tonsils in an attempt to establish culture conditions resulting in the induction of these three GC markers. We show that interferon (IFN) alpha or IFN-gamma, as well as antibodies against the B cell antigen receptor (BCR), could induce CD38 on resting B lymphocytes, a phenomenon further enhanced by CD40 stimulation. Concomitantly, CD95 was upregulated by CD40 ligation and, to a lesser extent, by IFN-gamma. By contrast, CPM expression could be upregulated only through BCR triggering. This CPM induction was specifically enhanced by CD19 or CD40 ligation. CD40 + BCR stimulation of resting B cells with CD40 ligand-transfected fibroblastic cells in the presence of cross-linked anti-BCR monoclonal antibodies resulted in the coexpression of CD38, CD95, and CPM. As GC cells, these cells also expressed CD71, CD80 (B7.1), and CD86 (B7.2), but not CD24. However, CD10+ or CD44- B cells could not be detected in these culture conditions, suggesting that yet other signals are required for the induction of these GC markers. Consistent with a GC phenotype, CD40 + BCR-stimulated cells exhibited reduced viability when cultured for 20 h in the absence of stimulus. These results first demonstrate that cotriggering of resting B cells through BCR and CD40 induces both phenotypic and functional GC features. They also show that IFN and CD19 triggering of resting B cells specifically modulate the expression of GC markers.

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