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The origin of IgG-containing cells in the bursa of Fabricius

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The bursa of Fabricius of the chicken is known as a primary lymphoid organ for B-cell development. Morphologically, the origin of IgG-containing cells in the bursa has not been clear until now, because abundant maternal IgG (MIgG) is transported to the chick embryo and distributed to the bursal tissue around hatching. Thus, it has been difficult to find out whether these cells themselves biosynthesize IgG or if they acquire MIgG via attachment to their surface. Our present study employing in situ hybridization clarified that IgG-containing cells in the medulla of bursal follicles did not biosynthesize IgG. To study the role of MIgG in the development of those IgG-containing cells, MIgG-free chicks were established from surgically bursectomized hen (SBx-hen). We found that, on the one hand, deprivation of MIgG from chicks completely inhibited the development of IgG-containing cells in the medulla after hatching. On the other hand, administration of MIgG to MIgG-free chicks recovered the emergence of those cells. In addition, we observed that those cells did not bear a B-cell marker and possessed dendrites with aggregated IgG. These results demonstrate that IgG-containing cells in the medulla are reticular cells that capture aggregated MIgG. Moreover, we show that the isolation of the bursa from environmental stimuli by bursal duct ligation (BDL) suppressed the development of IgG-containing cells after hatching. Thus, it is implied that environmental stimulations play a key role in MIgG aggregations and dendritic distributions of aggregated MIgG in the medulla after hatching.

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bursal duct ligation


confocal laser scanning microscopy


follicle-associated epithelium


follicular dendritic cell


gut-associated lymphoid tissue


maternal IgG


surgically bursectomized hen


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We are grateful to Dr. I. Schechter for a gift of a γ probe. We also thank Dr. S. Kawamura and Ms. M. Susa for their helpful discussions.

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Correspondence to Shigeo Ekino.

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This work was supported in part by the Mishima Kaiun Memorial Foundation and the Nisshin Seifun Group in Japan.

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Ekino, S., Arakawa, H., Sonoda, K. et al. The origin of IgG-containing cells in the bursa of Fabricius. Cell Tissue Res 348, 537–550 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00441-012-1407-7

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  • The bursa of Fabricius
  • Maternal IgG
  • IgG-containing cells
  • Reticular cell
  • GALT