A quantitative framework for lymphocyte fate decisions
AuthorHorton, Miles Benjamin
Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2021 Miles Benjamin Horton
During an adaptive immune response activated B and T lymphocytes undergo rapid clonal expansion and generate extensive cellular heterogeneity. How lymphocytes guarantee the emergence of functional diversity amongst responding cells is not fully understood. In this thesis, the strategies utilised by the adaptive immune system for the diversification of B and T cells is investigated at the cellular, molecular and clonal levels in a quantitative manner. Activated B cell heterogeneity is predominantly driven by two critical programs. Firstly, the differentiation of antibody-secreting cells (ASCs) and secondly, the diversification of antibody isotype by class switch recombination (CSR). The regulation of these two processes was investigated through combined clonal and molecular analysis using a high-throughput proliferative lineage tracing approach to study ASC differentiation and CSR across thousands of clones. Two distinct fate programs emerged. Firstly, the timing of ASC differentiation within clones was strongly correlated. Diversity in commitment to the ASC lineage is established early and could be traced to the naive founder cell, from where it is transmitted to all progeny during clonal expansion. In striking contrast, isotype switching was highly variable across related cells irrespective of common ancestry, revealing a highly stochastic, cell-autonomous process regulated late within activated single cells. Further analysis demonstrated that single cells faced with a choice of two heavy chain isotypes solve the conflict using stochastic selection that is independent of their clonal lineage. As the principle molecular drivers of CSR are well known, their variation amongst single cell within clonal families was measured. Extensive variation was demonstrated in the expression of both activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) and the transcription of the germline noncoding RNAs. Furthermore, there was no correlation between AID expression and germline transcription, nor was the expression of distinct germline transcripts correlated. Thus, the net effect of stochastic influences over these two components can account for the single cell autonomy governing CSR. This stochastic molecular mechanism of CSR was developed into a quantitative model that accurately described and predicted B cell fate decisions across cell division and under varying experimental conditions. Quantitative analysis was applied to multi-parameter data of CD8 T cell heterogeneity, generated in response to diverse external stimulation. Using a combination of novel and established analytical techniques, the influence of time and division progression on T cell diversification, and their control by external signals, was accurately measured. The results of this investigation was subsequently used to construct a kinetic model of time- and division-dependent expression patterning for the molecule CD69 under varying external conditions. This model accurately described the expression dynamics of CD69 over time and division and highlighted the utility of a quantitative modelling approach to understanding CD8 T cell heterogeneity. Collectively, the work presented in this thesis represents a set of quantitative principles that describe lymphocyte fate decisions.
KeywordsImmunology; Cellular immunology; Molecular immunology; Systems biology; System immunology; Quantitative biology; B cells; Fate decisions; Antibody
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