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J Clin Invest. 1998 Aug 1;102(3):606-18.

Nurse-like cells from bone marrow and synovium of patients with rheumatoid arthritis promote survival and enhance function of human B cells.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Osaka University Medical School, 2-2, Yamada-oka, Suita, Osaka 565, Japan.


Thymic nurse cells are known to interact with T cells and play a role in their functional maturation. However, the role of nurse cells in B cell maturation and differentiation is less well established, especially at extralymphoid sites. To address this issue, nurse-like cell clones from bone marrow and synovial tissue of patients with RA (RA-NLC) were established and characterized. RA-NLC constitutively expressed CD29, CD49c, CD54 (ICAM-1), CD106 (VCAM-1), CD157 (BST-1), and class I MHC molecules, and secreted IL-6, IL-7, IL-8, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). Bone marrow-derived and synovial RA-NLC differed in that the former secreted IL-7 and expressed a greater density of CD157 constitutively and after stimulation with IFNgamma, whereas the latter secreted G-CSF and more IL-6. Stimulation of both bone marrow and synovial RA-NLC induced expression of CD40 and class II MHC, but not CD154 (CD40L) or CD35. RA-NLC rescued peripheral B cells from spontaneous apoptosis and promoted survival of B cells for > 4 wk. B cell survival was blocked by antibodies to CD106 or CD157. RA-NLC also increased Ig production from B cells. After long-term culture (4-6 wk) with RA-NLC, but not alone or with fibroblasts, outgrowth of B cells was observed. All B cell lines derived from these cultures had been transformed by EBV, although the RA-NLC themselves were not infected with EBV. Precursor frequency analysis indicated that approximately 1 in 12,500 peripheral B cells could give rise to these EBV-transformed B cell lines upon coculture with RA-NLC. These results indicate that RA-NLC from bone marrow and synovium have the capacity to rescue B cells from spontaneous apoptosis, facilitate Ig production, and promote the outgrowth of EBV-transformed B lymphoblastoid cells. These findings suggest that RA-NLC may play a role in the local and systemic hyperreactivity of B cells characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.

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