CD19-deficient mice were used as a model to study follicular dendritic cell (FDC) activation because these mice have normal numbers of FDC-containing primary follicles, but lack the ability to activate FDCs or form GCs. It was hypothesized that CD19 expression is necessary for B-cell activation and upregulation of membrane lymphotoxin (mLT) expression, which promotes FDC activation. Using VCAM-1 and FcγRII/III as FDC activation markers, it was determined that the adoptive transfer of CD19+ wild-type B cells into CD19-deficient hosts rescued GC formation and FDC activation, demonstrating that CD19 expression on B cells is required for FDC activation. In contrast, CD19+ donor B cells lacking mLT were unable to induce VCAM-1 expression on FDCs, furthermore FcγRII/III upregulation was impaired in FDCs stimulated with mLT-deficient B cells. VCAM-1 expression on FDCs, but not FcγRII/III, was rescued when CD19-deficient B cells expressing transgenic mLT were cotransferred into recipient mice with CD19+, mLT-deficient B cells, suggesting that FDC activation requires the CD19-dependent upregulation of mLT on activated B cells. Collectively, these data demonstrate that activated B cells are responsible for the initiation of FDC activation resulting in a microenvironment supportive of GC development and maintenance. © 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.