Function and Regulation of B-cell Subsets in Experimental Autoimmune Arthritis

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: B lymphocytes play a significant role in autoimmune arthritis, with their function stretching beyond autoantibody production to cytokine secretion and presentation of autoantigen. However, the involvement and activation of different B-cell subset in the autoimmune response is not fully clear. The main focus of this thesis has been to understand the contribution of marginal zone (MZ) B cells in the induction of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a mouse model for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).We show that MZ B cells in the spleen of naïve mice display a natural self-reactivity to collagen type II (CII), the autoantigen used for immunization of CIA. The CII-reactive MZ B cells expand rapidly following immunization with CII, and produce IgM and IgG antibodies to CII. They also very efficiently present CII to cognate T cells in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, absence of regulatory receptors such as CR1/2 or FcγRIIb on the MZ B cells increases their proliferation and cytokine production in response to toll-like receptor, but not B-cell receptor, activation. Further, FcγRIIb-deficient MZ B cells present CII to T cells more efficiently than wild-type MZ B cells. We additionally demonstrate for the first time the existence of a small population of nodal MZ B cells in mouse lymph nodes. Similar to splenic MZ B cells, the nodal MZ B cells expand after CIA induction, secrete IgM anti-CII antibodies and can present CII to cognate T cells. Finally, we show that mast cells, associated with ectopic B cell follicles in inflamed RA joints, in coculture with B cells promote their expansion, production of IgM and IgG antibodies as well as upregulation of CD19 and L-selectin. Coculture with mast cells further causes the B cells to upregulate costimulators and class II MHC, important molecules for antigen-presenting function.In summary, my findings suggest that splenic and nodal self-reactive MZ B cells participate in breaking T-cell tolerance to CII in CIA. B-cell intrinsic regulation is needed to keep such autoreactive B cells quiescent. Mast cells can potentiate B-cell responses locally in the arthritic joint, thus feeding the autoimmune reaction.