A role for B cells in autoimmune diseases is now clearly established both with mouse models as well as in humans by successful treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other autoimmune diseases with anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies that eliminate B cells. However, the underlying mechanisms by which B cells may promote the development of autoimmune diseases remain poorly understood. We previously demonstrated that untreated active RA patients, patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, and patients with type 1 diabetes display abnormal early B cell tolerance checkpoints resulting in the accumulation of large numbers of autoreactive naove B cells in their blood. We recently established that these early B cell tolerance defects were primary to these autoimmune diseases and can be induced in asymptomatic donors by risk alleles such as PTPN22, which interfere with B cell receptor (BCR) signaling and the establishment of central B cell tolerance. In addition, anergy, one of the central B cell tolerance mechanisms, seems to be favored in some RA patients as illustrated by the increased frequency of peripheral unresponsive autoreactive B cells, which do not express the complement receptor 2/CD21 and are refractory to BCR and CD40 triggering. Hence, increased numbers of naove autoreactive B cells in patients with RA may favor disease development but it remains to be determined what pathways and mechanisms break B cell tolerance. The long range goal of the proposed research is to continue to characterize the mechanisms that regulate B cell tolerance in healthy humans but are defective in RA patients. The working hypothesis is that RA B cells suffer from intrinsic defects caused by associated risk alleles, which impinge on sensing self-antigens and result in an altered induction/regulation of central B cell tolerance mechanisms. Hence, receptor editing and deletion fail to be properly regulated in RA patients whereas anergy also contributes to the increased numbers of autoreactive B cells reaching the periphery where inflammatory conditions such as in the synovium may lead the activation of these autoreactive B cells and promote disease development. In addition, understanding the mechanisms that prevent or account for the production of autoreactive B cells may suggest new approaches to control disease and design more specific and sustained therapies.

Public Health Relevance

This proposal intends to demonstrate how genetic predispositions alter the induction and the regulation of B cell tolerance mechanisms in rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, we will study the activation of autoreactive B cells that infiltrate the synovium of RA patients and potentially promote disease pathogenesis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Hypersensitivity, Autoimmune, and Immune-mediated Diseases Study Section (HAI)
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Peyman, John A
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Yale University
Schools of Medicine
New Haven
United States
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