T Cell-Independent Activation of B cells

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A circle with small chains of hexagons projecting from the surface is a pathogenic bacterial cell. The chains are polysaccharide antigens with repeating epitopes. Antibodies on the B cell bind to these epitopes. This causes the activation of the  B cell and secretion of pentameric IgM.
T-independent antigens have repeating epitopes that can induce B cell recognition and activation without involvement from T cells. A second signal, such as interaction of TLRs with PAMPs (not shown), is also required for activation of the B cell. Once activated, the B cell proliferates and differentiates into antibody-secreting plasma cells.

Source: OpenStax Microbiology

OpenStax Microbiology

Activation of B cells without the cooperation of helper T cells is referred to as T cell-independent activation and occurs when BCRs interact with T-independent antigens. T-independent antigens (e.g., polysaccharide capsules, lipopolysaccharide) have repetitive epitope units within their structure, and this repetition allows for the cross-linkage of multiple BCRs, providing the first signal for activation. Because T cells are not involved, the second signal has to come from other sources, such as interactions of toll-like receptors with PAMPs or interactions with factors from the complement system.

Once a B cell is activated, it undergoes clonal proliferation and daughter cells differentiate into plasma cells. Plasma cells are antibody factories that secrete large quantities of antibodies. After differentiation, the surface BCRs disappear and the plasma cell secretes pentameric IgM molecules that have the same antigen specificity as the BCRs.

The T cell-independent response is short-lived and does not result in the production of memory B cells. Thus it will not result in a secondary response to subsequent exposures to T-independent antigens.


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology