Phosphatidylinositol 3' OH kinase (PI3K) signaling and FOXO transcription factors play opposing roles at several B cell developmental stages. We show here abundant nuclear FOXO1 expression in the proliferative compartment of the germinal center (GC), its dark zone (DZ), and PI3K activity, downregulating FOXO1, in the light zone (LZ), where cells are selected for further differentiation. In the LZ, however, FOXO1 was expressed in a fraction of cells destined for DZ reentry. Upon FOXO1 ablation or induction of PI3K activity, GCs lost their DZ, owing at least partly to downregulation of the chemokine receptor CXCR4. Although this prevented proper cyclic selection of cells in GCs, somatic hypermutation and proliferation were maintained. Class switch recombination was partly lost due to a failure of switch region targeting by activation-induced deaminase (AID).
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