CD40 expression is required for germinal center (GC) formation and function, but the kinetics and magnitude of signaling following CD40 engagement remain poorly characterized in human B cells undergoing GC reactions. Here, differences in CD40 expression and signaling responses were compared across differentiation stages of mature human tonsillar B cells. A combination of mass cytometry and phospho-specific flow cytometry was used to quantify protein expression and CD40L-induced signaling in primary human naïve, GC, and memory B cells. Protein expression signatures of cell subsets were quantified using viSNE and Marker Enrichment Modeling (MEM). This approach revealed enriched expression of CD40 protein in GC B cells, compared to naïve and memory B cells. Despite this, GC B cells responded to CD40L engagement with lower phosphorylation of NFκB p65 during the first 30 min following CD40L activation. Before CD40L stimulation, GC B cells expressed higher levels of suppressor protein IκBα than naïve and memory B cells. Following CD40 activation, IκBα was rapidly degraded and reached equivalently low levels in naïve, GC, and memory B cells at 30 min following CD40L. Quantifying CD40 signaling responses as a function of bound ligand revealed a correlation between bound CD40L and degree of induced NFκB p65 phosphorylation, whereas comparable IκBα degradation occurred at all measured levels of CD40L binding. These results characterize cell-intrinsic signaling differences that exist in mature human B cells undergoing GC reactions. © 2019 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.
© 2019 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.