Objective: To determine the immunologic effects of anti-CD40 ligand (anti-CD40L) therapy in 5 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus nephritis who participated in an open-label study of a humanized anti-CD40L monoclonal antibody.
Methods: Serum and peripheral blood mononuclear cells were obtained before, during, and after treatment, and the frequency of Ig and anti-DNA antibody-secreting B cells was analyzed by enzyme-linked immunospot assay and by analysis of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed B cell lines. To determine the effect of treatment on somatic mutation of Ig genes, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction was performed on messenger RNA from 4 patients, using primers specific for the DP-47 heavy chain gene and for IgG. Finally, B cell phenotype was investigated using flow cytometry.
Results: Even a brief period of treatment with anti-CD40L markedly reduced the frequency of IgG and IgG anti-DNA antibody-producing B cells, and these changes persisted for several months after cessation of treatment. To confirm these findings, EBV-transformed B cell lines were screened from each of 3 patients, and a 10-fold decrease in anti-DNA antibody-secreting cell lines was found after treatment in all 3 patients. Few differences in mutation patterns were observed before and after treatment; however, the frequency of germline-encoded DP-47 sequences was significantly increased before treatment and normalized following treatment. Flow cytometric analysis of B cells revealed expansion of a CD27-/IgD- B cell subset in some of the patients, which did not change with treatment.
Conclusion: These are the first mechanistic studies of the effect of anti-CD40L therapy in human autoimmune disease. The results suggest that further studies of CD40L blockade are warranted.