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Definition of B cell

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

B cell: A type of white blood cell and, specifically, a type of lymphocyte.

Many B cells mature into what are called plasma cells that produce antibodies (proteins) necessary to fight off infections while other B cells mature into memory B cells.

All of the plasma cells descended from a single B cell produce the same antibody which is directed against the antigen that stimulated it to mature. The same principle holds with memory B cells. Thus, all of the plasma cells and memory cells "remember" the stimulus that led to their formation.

The maturation of B cells takes place in birds in an organ called the bursa of Fabricus. B cells in mammals mature largely in the bone marrow.

The B cell, or B lymphocyte, is thus an immunologically important cell. It is not thymus-dependent, has a short lifespan, and is responsible for the production of immunoglobulins. It expresses immunoglobulins on its surface.

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Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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