Autoantibodies to dsDNA, produced by autoreactive plasma cells (PCs), are a hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus and play a key role in disease pathogenesis. Recent data suggest that autoreactive PCs accumulate not only in lymphoid tissues, but also in the inflamed kidney in lupus nephritis. We hypothesized that the variable efficacy of anti-CD20 (rituximab)-mediated B cell depletion in systemic lupus erythematosus may be related to the absence of an effect on autoreactive PCs in the kidney. In this article, we report that an enrichment of autoreactive dsDNA Ab-secreting cells (ASCs) in the kidney of lupus-prone mice (up to 40% of the ASCs) coincided with a progressive increase in splenic germinal centers and PCs, and an increase in renal expression for PC survival factors (BAFF, a proliferation-inducing ligand, and IL-6) and PC attracting chemokines (CXCL12). Short-term treatment with anti-CD20 (4 wk) neither decreased anti-dsDNA nor IgG ASCs in different anatomical locations. However, long-term treatment (12 wk) significantly reduced both IgG- and dsDNA-specific ASCs. In addition, long-term treatment substantially decreased splenic germinal center and PC generation, and unexpectedly reduced the expression for PC survival factors in the kidney. These results suggest that prolonged B cell depletion may alter the PC survival niche in the kidney, regulating the accumulation and maintenance of autoreactive PCs.
Inappropriate activation of type I IFN plays a key role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In this study, we report the presence of IFN activation in SLE bone marrow (BM), as measured by an IFN gene signature, increased IFN regulated chemokines, and direct production of IFN by BM-resident cells, associated with profound changes in B cell development. The majority of SLE patients had an IFN signature in the BM that was more pronounced than the paired peripheral blood and correlated with both higher autoantibodies and disease activity. Pronounced alterations in B cell development were noted in SLE in the presence of an IFN signature with a reduction in the fraction of pro/pre-B cells, suggesting an inhibition in early B cell development and an expansion of B cells at the transitional stage. These B cell changes strongly correlated with an increase in BAFF and APRIL expression in the IFN-high BM. Furthermore, we found that BM neutrophils in SLE were prime producers of IFN-? and B cell factors. In NZM lupus-prone mice, similar changes in B cell development were observed and mediated by IFN, given abrogation in NZM mice lacking type-I IFNR. BM neutrophils were abundant, responsive to, and producers of IFN, in close proximity to B cells. These results indicate that the BM is an important but previously unrecognized target organ in SLE with neutrophil-mediated IFN activation and alterations in B cell ontogeny and selection.
Although B cells are implicated in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus, the role of B cell depletion (BCD) as a treatment is controversial, given the variable benefit in human disease. This study was undertaken to test the effects of BCD therapy in a murine lupus model to better understand the mechanisms, heterogeneity, and effects on disease outcomes.
Transitional cells represent a crucial step in the differentiation and selection of the mature B cell compartment. Human transitional B cells have previously been variably identified based on the high level of expression of CD10, CD24, and CD38 relative to mature B cell populations and are expanded in the peripheral blood following rituximab-induced B cell-depletion at reconstitution. In this study, we take advantage of the gradual acquisition of the ABCB1 transporter during B cell maturation to delineate refined subsets of transitional B cells, including a late transitional B cell subset with a phenotype intermediate between T2 and mature naive. This late transitional subset appears temporally following the T1 and T2 populations in the peripheral compartment after rituximab-induced B cell reconstitution (and is thus termed T3) and is more abundant in normal peripheral blood than T1 and T2 cells. The identity of this subset as a developmental intermediate between early transitional and mature naive B cells was further supported by its ability to differentiate to naive during in vitro culture. Later transitional B cells, including T2 and T3, are found at comparatively increased frequencies in cord blood and spleen but were relatively rare in bone marrow. Additional studies demonstrate that transitional B cells mature across a developmental continuum with gradual up-regulation of mature markers, concomitant loss of immature markers, and increased responsiveness to BCR cross-linking in terms of proliferation, calcium flux, and survival. The characterization of multiple transitional B cell subpopulations provides important insights into human B cell development.
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