A single-cell pedigree analysis of alternative stochastic lymphocyte fates Academic Article uri icon


  • In contrast to most stimulated lymphocytes, B cells exposed to Toll-like receptor 9 ligands are nonself-adherent, allowing individual cells and families to be followed in vitro for up to 5 days. These B cells undergo phases typical of an adaptive response, dividing up to 6 times before losing the impetus for further growth and division and eventually dying by apoptosis. Using long-term microscopic imaging, accurate histories of individual lymphocyte fates were collected. Quantitative analysis of family relationships revealed that times to divide of siblings were strongly related but these correlations were progressively lost through consecutive divisions. A weaker, but significant, correlation was also found for death times among siblings. Division cessation is characterized by a loss of cell growth and the division in which this occurs is strongly inherited from the original founder cell and is related to the size this cell reaches before its first division. Thus, simple division-based dilution of factors synthesized during the first division may control the maximum division reached by stimulated cells. The stochastic distributions of times to divide, times to die, and divisions reached are also measured. Together, these results highlight the internal cellular mechanisms that control immune responses and provide a foundation for the development of new mathematical models that are correct at both single-cell and population levels.


publication date

  • August 11, 2009