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J Immunol. 2007 May 15;178(10):6092-9.

Distinct effector cytokine profiles of memory and naive human B cell subsets and implication in multiple sclerosis.

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Neuroimmunology Unit, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, and Department of Neurology, Ottawa General Hospital, Canada.


Although recent animal studies have fuelled growing interest in Ab-independent functions of B cells, relatively little is known about how human B cells and their subsets may contribute to the regulation of immune responses in either health or disease. In this study, we first confirm that effector cytokine production by normal human B cells is context dependent and demonstrate that this involves the reciprocal regulation of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. We further report that this cytokine network is dysregulated in patients with the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, whose B cells exhibit a decreased average production of the down-regulatory cytokine IL-10. Treatment with the approved chemotherapeutic agent mitoxantrone reciprocally modulated B cell proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, establishing that the B cell cytokine network can be targeted in vivo. Prospective studies of human B cells reconstituting following in vivo depletion suggested that different B cell subsets produced distinct effector cytokines. We confirmed in normal human B cell subsets that IL-10 is produced almost exclusively by naive B cells while the proinflammatory cytokines lymphotoxin and TNF-alpha are largely produced by memory B cells. These results point to an in vivo switch in the cytokine "program" of human B cells transitioning from the naive pool to the memory pool. We propose a model that ascribes distinct and proactive roles to memory and naive human B cell subsets in the regulation of memory immune responses and in autoimmunity. Our findings are of particular relevance at a time when B cell directed therapies are being applied to clinical trials of several autoimmune diseases.

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