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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jan 21;94(2):646-51.

Peripheral deletion of rheumatoid factor B cells after abortive activation by IgG.

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Department of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0663, USA.


Rheumatoid factor (RF) B cells proliferate during secondary immune responses to immune complexed antigen and antigen specific T cells, but higher affinity RFs are not detected except in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Consequently, there must exist highly efficient mechanisms for inactivation of these higher-affinity RF B cell clones under normal circumstances. Exposure of transgenic mice expressing a human IgM RF to soluble human IgG in the absence of T cell help causes antigen specific B cell deletion in 2-3 days. The deletion is independent of the Fas/Fas ligand (FasL) pathway of apoptosis and is preceded by a phase of partial activation involving increase in cell size and expression of B7 and ICAM-1, and transient release of low levels of immunoglobulin. Complete B cell activation involving the formation of germinal centers and sustained high level RF secretion only occurs if T cell help is provided simultaneously. RF B cells exposed to tolerogen remain competent to secrete RF in vitro if provided with an appropriate antigenic stimulus and T cell help. Consequently, death of these cells is not preceded by anergy. Abortive activation/deletion of B cells by antigen in the absence of T cell-derived survival signals may represent the major mechanism for maintaining peripheral tolerance in B cells expressing higher affinity RF. The lack of anergy, and the potential for reactivation before death, provide a means for maintaining RF production under pathologic circumstances, such as may occur in the inflamed rheumatoid synovium.

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