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Differentiation of B lymphocytes in response to vaccination

  • Full or part time
    Prof K Toellner
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

B lymphocytes upon contact by antigens undergo a complex programme of differentiation and migration through lymphoid microenvironments, before they differentiate into either plasma cells or convert into memory B cells. Plasma cells are the cells that produce large amounts of antibody. Memory B cells typically are affinity matured B cells that provide rapid high affinity plasma cell responses to pathogens that reenter the body. Understanding B lymphocyte differentiation is highly relevant for the understanding of vaccine responses, memory to vaccination and how to optimize design and responses to vaccines.

We study how B cells migrate through lymphoid microenvironments, interacting and exchanging signals with different accessory cells on the way. We are interested in how this migration is directed by chemokines, and what signals are exchanged to regulate differentiation of memory B cells and plasma cells. In particular the role of signals through the B cell’s antigen receptor (BCR), how the BCR competes for antigen-binding with other molecules, i.e. antigen-specific antibodies, and what signals are provided by T cells and stroma to regulate B cell differentiation.

A separate group of projects studies optimizing vaccines for responses in the aged immune system, and the development of specific vaccines, in particular vaccines inducing antibodies specific to neoantigens expressed in the tumour microenvironment.

Funding Notes

Self-funding applications only. Applicants will need to meet the UoB eligibility criteria and meet our English language requirements.


1) Caganova, M., C. Carrisi, F. Mainoldi, L. George, F. Alberghini, M. Ponzoni, T. Nojima, C. Doglioni, D. Kitamura, K.-M. Toellner, I. Su, S. Casola
Regulation of the germinal center B-cell program by the histone H3 lysine-27 methyltransferase Ezh2
Journal of Clinical Investigation, 201, 123, 5009-5022
2) Zhang Y., M. Meyer-Hermann, L. George, M. T. Figge, M. Khan, M. Goodall, S. P. Young, A. Reynolds, F. Falciani, A. Waisman, C. A. Notley, M. R. Ehrenstein, M. Kosco-Vilbois, K.-M. Toellner
Germinal centre B cells govern their own fate via antibody feedback
Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2013, 210, 457-464.
3) Meyer-Hermann M., E. Mohr, N. Pelletier, Y. Zhang, G. D. Victora, K.-M. Toellner
A novel theory of germinal center B cell selection, division, and exit
Cell Reports, 2012, 26, 162-174.
4) Marshall J. L., Y. Zhang, L. Pallan, M.-C. Hsu, M. Khan, A. Cunningham, I. C. M. MacLennan, K.-M. Toellner
Early B blasts acquire a capacity for Ig class switch recombination that is lost as they become plasmablasts
European Journal of Immunology, 2011, 41, 3506-3512.
5) Toellner K.-M., M. Khan, D. M.-Y. Sze
Analysis of the germinal center reaction and in vivo long-lived plasma cells
B Cell Protocols, Humana Press, Totowa, NJ
Editors: H. Gu, K. Rajewsky
Methods in Molecular Biology, 2004, 271, 111-125

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