Antibody-producing plasma cells depend on their environment for survival, but the molecules involved in this process are still not well defined. Plasma cells are fully equipped to respond to a proliferation inducing ligand (APRIL) from the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily, by virtue of their constitutive expression of the B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), as canonical receptor from the TNF receptor superfamily, and the heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG), CD138, as co-receptor. Here, we report that APRIL promoted the in vitro survival of plasma cells by upregulating expression of several anti-apoptotic molecules, such as bcl-2, bcl-xL and mcl-1. We further observed an in situ localization for APRIL consistent with this pro-survival role, both in mucosa-associated lymphoid tissues (MALT) and the bone marrow. In upper MALT, the tonsillar epithelium produced APRIL. Upon infection, APRIL production increased considerably when APRIL-secreting neutrophils, recruited from the blood, infiltrated the crypt epithelium. HSPG retained secreted APRIL in the sub-epithelium of the infected zone to create APRIL-rich niches, wherein IgG-producing plasma cells accumulated. In lower MALT, neutrophils were the unique source of APRIL giving rise to similar niches for IgA-producing plasmocytes in villi of lamina propria. The requirement on an inflammatory reaction in niche establishment implies that plasma-cell survival in mucosa is associated to pathogen presence, and must be short as a consequence. We observed also APRIL in the bone marrow. In this latter organ, maturating granulocytes produced constitutively APRIL. Such constitutive expression of a plasma cell pro-survival explains, at least in part, why plasma-cell longevity in the bone marrow can be so long lasting. These in situ human observations were confirmed in vivo with APRIL-deficient mice.

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