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J Immunol. 1998 Jan 1;160(1):51-9.

A new role for B cells in systemic autoimmunity: B cells promote spontaneous T cell activation in MRL-lpr/lpr mice.

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Section of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8035, USA.


A conventional view of the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus has emerged. The role of B cells is to secrete pathogenic autoantibodies, while the role of T cells is to provide help for autoantibody-producing B cells. A problem with this view is that spontaneous T cell activation as well as T cell infiltration of organs such as kidney and skin are prominent features in systemic lupus erythematosus patients and murine models of lupus. The identification of T cell infiltrates, in particular, suggests that autoantibody-mediated damage may be only part of the story and that T cells could also play a primary role in immune-mediated pathology. To test the role of B cells directly, we previously generated autoimmune-prone MRL-lpr/lpr mice that lack B cells. The complete absence of T cell infiltrates in these mice was surprising, and it prompted us to examine whether a key role of B cells in disease evolution is to prime autoreactive T cells. Here we demonstrate, by comparing B cell-deficient and control mice, that the expansion of activated and memory T cells in the MRL-lpr/lpr mouse is indeed highly dependent on B cells. These results suggest a novel role for B cells in autoimmune disregulation.

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