The effect of human spleen(L-rich) and heart(H-rich) ferritins on the proliferation and differentiation of human B lymphocytes was studied in comparison with that of holo- and apo-transferrins. Ferritins rich in H and L chain, as well as the transferrins, did not inhibit the proliferative response of resting and activated B cells stimulated with polyclonal B-cell mitogen, Staphylococcus aureus Cowan strain I. In contrast, the ferritins, but not the transferrins, clearly suppressed the antibody production by B blasts in T-cell-independent as well as T- cell-dependent system. Kinetic study showed that inhibitory action of ferritins on immunoglobulin (Ig) production was caused at an early stage of B-cell differentiation. The cytoplasmic Ig-containing cells decreased in proportion to the reduction of Ig secretion. The evidence that ferritin inhibited Ig synthesis of Epstein-Barr virus-transformed human B-lymphoblastoid cell line also supported the idea that the effect of ferritin was directed toward the antibody-producing B lymphocytes. The molecular analysis showed that the inhibitory effect of ferritin was regulated at the transcriptional level of the Ig generation signal. Our results suggest that H- and L-rich ferritins exert their inhibitory action on the differentiation of B cells maturing into Ig-producing cells.

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