Objective: While rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is considered a prototypical autoimmune disease, the specific roles of B-cells in RA pathogenesis is not fully delineated.
Methods: We performed microarray expression profiling of peripheral blood B-cells from RA patients and controls. Data were analysed using differential gene expression analysis and 'gene networking' analysis (characterizing clusters of functionally inter-relelated genes) to identify both regulatory genes and the pathways in which they participate. Results were confirmed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and by measuring the levels of 10 serum cytokines involved in the pathways identified.
Results: Genes regulating and effecting the cell-cycle, proliferation, apoptosis, autoimmunity, cytokine networks, angiogenesis and neuro-immune regulation were differentially expressed in RA B-cells. Moreover, the serum levels of several soluble factors that modulate these pathways, including IL-1beta, IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12p40, IL-17 and VEGF were significantly increased in this cohort of RA patients.
Conclusions: These results outline aspects of the multifaceted role B-cells play in RA pathogenesis in which immune dysregulation in RA modulates B-cell biology and thereby contributes to the induction and perpetuation of a pathogenic humoral immune response.