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Immunity. 2004 Apr;20(4):441-53.

Reduced competitiveness of autoantigen-engaged B cells due to increased dependence on BAFF.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143 USA.


Peripheral autoantigen binding B cells are poorly competitive with naive B cells for survival and undergo rapid cell death. However, in monoclonal Ig-transgenic mice lacking competitor B cells, autoantigen binding B cells can survive for extended periods. The basis for competitive elimination of autoantigen binding B cells has been unknown. Here we demonstrate that autoantigen binding B cells have increased dependence on BAFF for survival. In monoclonal Ig-transgenic mice, each autoantigen binding B cell receives elevated amounts of BAFF, exhibiting increased levels of NFkappaB p52 and of the prosurvival kinase Pim2. When placed in a diverse B cell compartment, BAFF receptor engagement and signaling are reduced and the autoantigen binding cells are unable to protect themselves from Bim and possibly other death-promoting factors induced by chronic BCR signaling. These findings indicate that under conditions where BAFF levels are elevated, autoantigen-engaged cells will be rescued from rapid competitive elimination, predisposing to the development of autoimmune disease.

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