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J Clin Invest. 2016 Jan;126(1):282-7. doi: 10.1172/JCI83840. Epub 2015 Dec 7.

Rituximab does not reset defective early B cell tolerance checkpoints.


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) patients show abnormalities in early B cell tolerance checkpoints, resulting in the accumulation of large numbers of autoreactive B cells in their blood. Treatment with rituximab, an anti-CD20 mAb that depletes B cells, has been shown to preserve β cell function in T1D patients and improve other autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. However, it remains largely unknown how anti-B cell therapy thwarts autoimmunity in these pathologies. Here, we analyzed the reactivity of Abs expressed by single, mature naive B cells from 4 patients with T1D before and 52 weeks after treatment to determine whether rituximab resets early B cell tolerance checkpoints. We found that anti-B cell therapy did not alter the frequencies of autoreactive and polyreactive B cells, which remained elevated in the blood of all patients after rituximab treatment. Moreover, the limited proliferative history of autoreactive B cells after treatment revealed that these clones were newly generated B cells and not self-reactive B cells that had escaped depletion and repopulated the periphery through homeostatic expansion. We conclude that anti-B cell therapy may provide a temporary dampening of autoimmune processes through B cell depletion. However, repletion with autoreactive B cells may explain the relapse that occurs in many autoimmune patients after anti-B cell therapy.

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