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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2016 Jan;55(1):162-72. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kev293. Epub 2015 Aug 28.

Toll-like receptor 9 activation enhances B cell activating factor and interleukin-21 induced anti-proteinase 3 autoantibody production in vitro.

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Department of Pathology and Medical Biology,
Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology and.
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Nephrology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA) is a relapsing small-vessel vasculitis characterized by circulating ANCA against PR3. The mechanisms that trigger PR3-ANCA production are unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether endogenous factors [B cell activating factor (BAFF) and IL-21] and exogenous factors [oligodeoxynucleotides containing CpG motifs (CpG-ODN)] synergize in stimulating PR3-ANCA production in GPA patients.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from GPA patients and healthy controls (HCs) were cultured in the presence of BAFF and IL-21, with or without CpG-ODN, for 12 days. PR3-ANCA production in culture supernatants was quantified by Phadia EliA. Phenotypic characterization and the influence of CpG-ODN treatment on IL-21 receptor (IL-21R), transmembrane activator and calcium-modulator and cyclophilin ligand interactor (TACI) and BAFF receptor (BAFF-R) expression on B cells was analysed by flow cytometry.


Stimulation with BAFF and IL-21 significantly increased ANCA production in patient samples, which could be augmented further by addition of CpG-ODN. Stimulation with CpG-ODN increased the percentage of IL-21R(+) and TACI(+) B cells but did not affect BAFF-R expression. GPA patients had an increased percentage of circulating IL-21R(+) and a decreased percentage of TACI(+) circulating memory B cells when compared with HCs. Additionally, patients had decreased expression of BAFF-R on B cells, which was inversely correlated with BAFF concentrations in plasma.


Our data demonstrate that endogenous and exogenous factors can synergize to promote PR3-ANCA production. Mechanistically, CpG-ODN up-regulated IL-21R and TACI expression on B cells, possibly sensitizing these cells for IL-21- and BAFF-mediated signals. Agents inhibiting Toll-like receptor 9, BAFF and IL-21 signalling pathways may serve as potential therapeutics for intervention in GPA patients.


ANCA; B cells; BAFF; BAFF-R; GPA; IL-21; IL-21R; TACI; TLR9; vasculitis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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