The processes that normally generate and maintain adaptive immunity and immunological memory are poorly understood, and yet of fundamental importance when infectious diseases place such a major economic and social burden on the world's health and agriculture systems. Defects in these mechanisms also underlie the many forms of human primary immunodeficiency. Identifying these mechanisms in a systematic way is therefore important if we are to develop better strategies for treating and preventing infection, inherited disease, transplant rejection and autoimmunity. In this review we describe a genome-wide screen in mice for the genes important for generating these adaptive responses, and describe two independent DOCK8 mutant mice strains identified by this screen. DOCK 8 was found to play an essential role in humoral immune responses and to be important in the proper formation of the B cell immunological synapse.