CD27-IgD- memory B cells are modulated by in vivo interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) blockade in rheumatoid arthritis

Zafar Mahmood, Khalid Muhammad, Marc Schmalzing, Petra Roll, Thomas Dörner, Hans Peter Tony

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46 Scopus citations


Introduction: Enhanced B cell activity, particularly memory B cells have gained interest in evaluating response during therapies with biologics. CD27-IgD- double-negative (DN) B cells lacking the conventional memory marker CD27 are reported to be part of the memory compartment, however, only scarce data is available for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We therefore focused on DN B cells in RA, studied their isotypes and modulation during interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) inhibition by tocilizumab (TCZ). Methods: DN B cells were phenotypically analyzed from 40 RA patients during TCZ at baseline week 12, week 24 and 1 year. A single B cell polymerase chain reaction (PCR) approach was used to study Ig receptors, VH gene rearrangements and specific isotypes. Results: Phenotypic analysis showed a significantly expanded population of DN B cells in RA which contain a heterogeneous mixture of IgG-, IgA- and IgM-expressing cells with a clear dominance of IgG+ cells. DN B cells carry rearranged heavy chain gene sequences with a diversified mutational pattern consistent with memory B cells. In contrast to tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) inhibition, a significant reduction in mutational frequency of BCR gene rearrangements at week 12, 24 and 1 year (P <0.0001) was observed by in vivo IL-6R inhibition. These changes were observed for all BCR isotypes IgG, IgA and IgM at week 12, 24 and 1 year (P <0.0001). IgA-RF, IgA serum level and IgA+ DN B cells decreased significantly (P <0.05) at week 12 and week 24 during TCZ. Patients with a good European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) response to TCZ had less DN B cells at baseline as compared to moderate responders (P = 0.006). Univariate logistic regression analysis revealed that the frequency of DN B cells at baseline is inversely correlated to a subsequent good EULAR response (P = 0.024) with an odds ratio of 1.48 (95% confidence interval as 1.05 to 2.06). Conclusions: In RA, the heterogeneous DN B cell compartment is expanded and dominated by IgG isotype. TCZ can modulate the mutational status of DN Ig isotype receptors over 1 year. Interestingly, the frequency of DN B cells in RA may serve as a baseline predictor of subsequent EULAR response to TCZ.

Original languageEnglish
Article number61
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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