Objective: To identify B cell subpopulations participating in the lymphocyte infiltrate of salivary glands from patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome. A special emphasis was placed on those B lymphocytes included in the ectopic germinal centers (GCs).
Methods: The presence of B cells in salivary glands and their polyclonality were ascertained by phenotyping and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in salivary gland samples from 18 patients. Their phenotype was thoroughly analyzed using a number of double-staining combinations. The results obtained in tissue sections were confirmed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis of B cells eluted from salivary glands, and these findings were compared with those in tonsils.
Results: Memory-type B cells were defined as CD20+, CD27+ and were seen in all specimens, whereas GCs were found in only 7 specimens. Furthermore, B cells found in these GCs lacked certain characteristics of centroblasts and centrocytes. Instead, they fulfilled the criteria for transitional type II (TII) B cells and resembled marginal-zone B cells. BAFF (the assistance of which is required for proper transformation of transitional TI B cells into transitional TII B cells) accumulated adjacent to transitional and marginal-zone-like B lymphocytes. Further evidence for the involvement of BAFF came from the expression of its receptors on infiltrating B cells.
Conclusion: These transitional TII and marginal-zone-like B cells are probably instrumental in the local production of autoantibodies and possibly influential in the ensuing destruction of epithelial cells.