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Follicular dendritic cells (FDCs) regulate B cell function and development of high affinity antibody responses but little is known about their biology. FDCs associate in intricate cellular networks within secondary lymphoid organs. In vitro and ex vivo methods, therefore, allow only limited understanding of the genuine immunobiology of FDCs in their native habitat. Herein, we used various multicolor fate mapping systems to investigate the ontogeny and dynamics of lymph node (LN) FDCs in situ. We show that LN FDC networks arise from the clonal expansion and differentiation of marginal reticular cells (MRCs), a population of lymphoid stromal cells lining the LN subcapsular sinus. We further demonstrate that during an immune response, FDCs accumulate in germinal centers and that neither the recruitment of circulating progenitors nor the division of local mature FDCs significantly contributes to this accumulation. Rather, we provide evidence that newly generated FDCs also arise from the proliferation and differentiation of MRCs, thus unraveling a critical function of this poorly defined stromal cell population.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Med

Publication Date





1109 - 1122


Animals, Cell Differentiation, Cell Lineage, Cell Proliferation, Dendritic Cells, Follicular, Germinal Center, Luminescent Proteins, Lymph Nodes, Mesoderm, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Mice, Transgenic, Microscopy, Confocal, RANK Ligand, Receptors, Complement 3b, Receptors, Complement 3d, Stem Cells, Stromal Cells