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J Clin Invest. 2011 Jul;121(7):2614-24. doi: 10.1172/JCI45685.

Attenuation of HIV-associated human B cell exhaustion by siRNA downregulation of inhibitory receptors.

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Laboratory of Immunoregulation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1576, USA.


Chronic immune activation in HIV-infected individuals leads to accumulation of exhausted tissue-like memory B cells. Exhausted lymphocytes display increased expression of multiple inhibitory receptors, which may contribute to the inefficiency of HIV-specific antibody responses. Here, we show that downregulation of B cell inhibitory receptors in primary human B cells led to increased tissue-like memory B cell proliferation and responsiveness against HIV. In human B cells, siRNA knockdown of 9 known and putative B cell inhibitory receptors led to enhanced B cell receptor-mediated (BCR-mediated) proliferation of tissue-like memory but not other B cell subpopulations. The strongest effects were observed with the putative inhibitory receptors Fc receptor-like-4 (FCRL4) and sialic acid-binding Ig-like lectin 6 (Siglec-6). Inhibitory receptor downregulation also led to increased levels of HIV-specific antibody-secreting cells and B cell-associated chemokines and cytokines. The absence of known ligands for FCRL4 and Siglec-6 suggests these receptors may regulate BCR signaling through their own constitutive or tonic signaling. Furthermore, the extent of FCLR4 knockdown effects on BCR-mediated proliferation varied depending on the costimulatory ligand, suggesting that inhibitory receptors may engage specific pathways in inhibiting B cell proliferation. These findings on HIV-associated B cell exhaustion define potential targets for reversing the deleterious effect of inhibitory receptors on immune responses against persistent viral infections.

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