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J Immunol. 2014 Jul 15;193(2):580-586. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1400118. Epub 2014 Jun 13.

Rituximab efficiently depletes increased CD20-expressing T cells in multiple sclerosis patients.

Author information

University of California, San Francisco, Department of Neurology, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland.
Contributed equally


In multiple sclerosis (MS), B cell-depleting therapy using monoclonal anti-CD20 Abs, including rituximab (RTX) and ocrelizumab, effectively reduces disease activity. Based on indirect evidence, it is generally believed that elimination of the Ag-presenting capabilities and Ag nonspecific immune functions of B cells underlie the therapeutic efficacy. However, a small subset of T lymphocytes (T cells) was shown to also express CD20, but controversy prevails surrounding the true existence of this T cell subpopulation. Using single-cell imaging flow cytometry and expression profiling of sorted lymphocyte subsets, we unequivocally demonstrate the existence of CD3(+)CD20(dim) T cells. We show that in MS patients, increased levels of CD3(+)CD20(dim) T cells are effectively depleted by RTX. The pathological relevance of this T cell subset in MS remains to be determined. However, given their potential proinflammatory functionality, depletion of CD20-expressing T cells may also contribute to the therapeutic effect of RTX and other mAbs targeting CD20.

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