Definition of B-cell lymphocyte

A type of white blood cell (leukocyte) responsible for antibody-mediated immunity (also called humoral immunity). B-cell lymphocytes are so named because they come to maturity in the bone marrow (in contrast to T-cell lymphocytes, which come to maturity in the thymus). B-cell lymphocytes produce antibodies in reaction to the presence of antigens. The bone marrow generates millions of B-cell lymphocytes each day. Each B-cell lymphocyte is specific for a unique antigen.

B-cell lymphocytes may be memory B-cells, which “remember” specific antigens to mobilize a rapid immune response upon detecting their presence, and plasma cells, which produce antibodies.

  • Plasma cells generate antibodies in response to the presence of antigens.
  • Memory B-cells remain in the circulation of the blood and lymph, carrying inactive antibodies. Each memory B-cell has antibodies specific to a particular antigen the immune response has previously encountered. When the memory Bcell encounters the antigen again, it immediately begins producing antibodies.

Health conditions that affect B-cell lymphocytes include cancers, such as certain types of leukemia and lymphoma, and acquired immune and autoimmune disorders.

For further discussion of B-cell lymphocytes within the context of the structures and functions of the immune system, please see the overview section “The Immune System and Allergies.”


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