Stochastic discrete event simulation of germinal center reactions.
We introduce a generic reaction-diffusion model for germinal center reactions and perform numerical simulations within a stochastic discrete event approach. In contrast to the frequently used deterministic continuum approach, each single reaction event is monitored in space and time in order to simulate the correct time evolution of this complex biological system. Germinal centers play an important role in the immune system by performing a reaction that aims at improving the affinity between antibodies and antigens. Our model captures experimentally observed features of this reaction, such as the development of the remarkable germinal center morphology and the maturation of antibody-antigen affinity in the course of time. We model affinity maturation within a simple affinity class picture and study it as a function of the distance between the initial antibody-antigen affinity and the highest possible affinity. The model reveals that this mutation distance may be responsible for the experimentally observed all-or-none behavior of germinal centers; i.e., they generate either mainly output cells of high affinity or no high-affinity output cells at all. Furthermore, the exact simulation of the system dynamics allows us to study the hypothesis of cell recycling in germinal centers as a mechanism for affinity optimization. A comparison of three possible recycling pathways indicates that affinity maturation is optimized by a recycling pathway that has previously not been taken into account in deterministic continuum models.