B lymphocytes were originally described as a cell type uniquely capable of secreting Abs. The importance of T cell help in Ab production was revealed soon afterward. Following these seminal findings, investigators made great strides in delineating steps in the conventional pathway that B cells follow to produce high-affinity Abs. These studies revealed generalized, or canonical, features of B cells that include their developmental origin and paths to maturation, activation, and differentiation into Ab-producing and memory cells. However, along the way, examples of nonconventional B cell populations with unique origins, age-dependent development, tissue localization, and effector functions have been revealed. In this brief review, features of B-1a, B-1b, marginal zone, regulatory, killer, NK-like, age-associated, and atypical B cells are discussed. Emerging work on these noncanonical B cells and functions, along with the study of their significance for human health and disease, represents an exciting frontier in B cell biology.

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