Quantitative modeling of the effect of antigen dosage on B-cell affinity distributions in maturating germinal centers

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
M. MolariRemi Monasson

Abstract

Affinity maturation is a complex dynamical process allowing the immune system to generate antibodies capable of recognizing antigens. We introduce a model for the evolution of the distribution of affinities across the antibody population in germinal centers. The model is amenable to detailed mathematical analysis, and gives insight on the mechanisms through which antigen availability controls the rate of maturation and the expansion of the antibody population. It is also capable, upon maximum-likelihood inference of the parameters, to reproduce accurately the distributions of affinities of IgG-secreting cells we measure in mice immunized against Tetanus Toxoid under largely varying conditions (antigen dosage, delay between injections). Both model and experiments show that the average population affinity depends non-monotonically on the antigen dosage. We show that combining quantitative modelling and statistical inference is a concrete way to investigate biological processes underlying affinity maturation (such as selection permissiveness), hardly accessible through measurements.

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