The central goal of this proposal is to elucidate the mechanism(s) by which B cell depletion therapy (BCDT) and other targeted B cell therapies are efficacious and restore tolerance in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). It is hypothesized that loss of tolerance in SLE is due to an alteration in the balance of B cell survival signals (e.g. BAFF-B cell activator of the TNF family) relative to the numbers of transitional B cells emerging from the bone marrow (BM) (high BAFF/low numbers of emerging BM B cells), decreasing the stringency of negative selection. It is further postulated that a key dysregulated signal is interferon (IFN), with local production in the BM inhibiting BM B cell lymphopoiesis. On the other hand, we have found that a subset of SLE patients treated with BCDT experience restoration of B cell tolerance and have a unique pattern of B cell reconstitution characterized by exuberant B cell lymphopoiesis and a prominent expansion of circulating transitional cells. Thus, restoration of homeostatic mechanisms within the B cell transitional compartment may be critical for tolerance restoration in this group of subjects and, moreover, transitional B cells may play a physiological regulatory role that is dysregulated in SLE and restored after BCDT. This model will be tested through the following specific aims: 1. Define the factors regulating homeostasis of the transitional B cell compartment in SLE with a focus on BM B cell lymphopoiesis;2. Determine the consequences of B cell depletion therapy and targeted biologic antagonism of BAFF or IFN on transitional B cell homeostasis and tolerance;and 3. Elucidate the immunoregulatory roles of transitional B cells and the contribution of a transitional B cell expansion to disease improvement in SLE after BCDT. Specifically, BM lymphopoiesis and its regulation will be examined by multi-parameter flow cytometry of BM B cell subsets and delineation of the cytokine milieu (IFN BAFF via luminex, gene signature, and flow based signaling) in normal controls, untreated SLE, and SLE after BCDT, anti-BAFF, or anti-IFN therapy. The phenotype, survival, proliferation, and selection of transitional B cells emerging from the BM will be ascertained based on flow cytometry, annexin-V binding, proliferation antigen expression, and replication history relative to IFN and engagement by BAFF. Tolerance will be assessed as a decrease in the frequency of autoreactive B cells during maturation from the transitional to the mature stage using single cell PCR and ELISPOT technology. The ability of transitional B cells to express anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL10) and induce a T regulatory cell phenotype will be defined. These studies will illuminate the mechanisms that underlie SLE, the role of B cells in autoimmunity, and the ways in which targeted therapy may improve disease.

Public Health Relevance

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by an abnormal immune response against self. B cells are a key immune cell in lupus in part because they play a central role in the production of auto-antibodies, a hallmark of the disease process. The research proposed here will help us understand the dysregulation that occurs in lupus in B cell development and censoring of autoreactive B cells and how B cell depletion and other targeted biologic therapies induce improvement. The knowledge gained from the present studies will help us understand the multiple functions of B cells in autoimmunity and develop better strategies for the treatment of lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

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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Johnson, David R
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University of Rochester
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Dentistry
United States
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