The tyrosine kinase Csk promotes germinal center B cell survival and affinity maturation

Researchers from Osaka University found that the tyrosine kinase Csk plays a crucial role in regulating germinal center B cell signaling. Csk deletion in a mouse model led to increased ROS production and apoptosis, thereby inhibiting B cell affinity maturation.

The authors found that Csk (a tyrosine kinase that attenuates B cell receptor signaling) is required for germinal center maintenance and efficient antibody maturation.


Researchers from Osaka University find that the tyrosine kinase Csk inhibits germinal center B cell signaling, thereby decreasing the production of reactive oxygen species and apoptosis, and promoting affinity maturation

Osaka, Japan – The immune system strikes a fine balance by identifying and neutralizing disease-causing agents while carefully avoiding destruction of healthy tissues and cells. Now, researchers from Japan have shed new light on one of the processes that helps train immune cells to act only against genuine threats.

In a study published this month in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers from Osaka University have revealed that a receptor protein with two distinct activities plays a key role in the development of an important subset of immune cells.

B cells, specialized cells in the immune system that recognize and “remember” foreign factors like bacteria, mature in the germinal center (GC) of immunity-related organs such as the spleen and the lymph node. Specific B cells that are particularly good at recognizing foreign substances are selected for and amplified through a process that involves B cell receptor (BCR) signaling. However, the mechanisms by which GC B cell positive selection takes place remain somewhat unclear.

“BCR is not only a signal transducer, but also mediates antigen presentation, a process that involves T cell–B cell interactions,” says lead author of the study Takeshi Inoue. “This makes it challenging to determine each function separately during positive selection process.”

To tease apart the two functions of the BCR and explore their roles in GC B cell selection, the researchers used a mouse model lacking Csk, an inhibitor of BCR signaling. In these mice, BCR signaling was increased, but antigen presentation, the other function of the BCR, was unaffected.

“The results were very clear,” explains Tomohiro Kurosaki, senior author. “Deleting Csk decreased GC B cell survival and impaired their affinity maturation.”

In addition, the mutated B cells showed mitochondrial dysfunction that was linked to higher levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The increase in ROS production led to B cell death, explaining why their survival rates were so much lower than those of unmutated cells.

“Our findings suggest that the Csk tyrosine kinase is a crucial regulator of GC BCR signaling that is required for B cell affinity maturation,” says Inoue.

Given that appropriate ROS activity levels actually promote BCR signaling, the findings from this study suggest that whether ROS has both positive and negative effects on BCR signaling depends on the quantity of ROS that is present.

The article, “Csk restrains BCR-mediated ROS production and contributes to germinal center selection and affinity maturation,” was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine at DOI:


About Osaka University
Osaka University was founded in 1931 as one of the seven imperial universities of Japan and is now one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities with a broad disciplinary spectrum. This strength is coupled with a singular drive for innovation that extends throughout the scientific process, from fundamental research to the creation of applied technology with positive economic impacts. Its commitment to innovation has been recognized in Japan and around the world, being named Japan's most innovative university in 2015 (Reuters 2015 Top 100) and one of the most innovative institutions in the world in 2017 (Innovative Universities and the Nature Index Innovation 2017). Now, Osaka University is leveraging its role as a Designated National University Corporation selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to contribute to innovation for human welfare, sustainable development of society, and social transformation.

About Immunology Frontier Research Center (IFReC), Osaka University
IFReC was established by the support of the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) in 2007. IFReC aims to overcome immune-related diseases by clarifying the whole picture of the immune system, and has promoted globally competitive fundamental research with excellent researchers from overseas.

Published: 20 May 2024


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Global Strategy Unit

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Funding information:

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science,
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development,
SENSHIN Medical Research Foundation,
Mochida Memorial Foundation for Medical and Pharmaceutical Research,
Takeda Science Foundation,
The Naito Foundation,
The Sumitomo Foundation