B cells move to centre stage: novel opportunities for autoimmune disease treatment

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2006 Jul;5(7):564-76. doi: 10.1038/nrd2085.


The B-cell arm of the immune system has long been appreciated for its crucial role in pathogen resistance, but in the study of many autoimmune diseases, T cells have dominated the limelight for decades. However, the development of the B-cell-depleting antibody rituximab as a lymphoma therapy has provided a tool to probe the contribution made by B cells in several immune disorders. Recently, the success of B-cell depletion with rituximab in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has stimulated investigation of its effects in several other immune disorders, and considerable interest in the potential of drugs that can modulate B-cell function for the treatment of such diseases in general. This article discusses the role of B cells in a range of autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, and analyses approaches to therapeutic B-cell manipulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Rituximab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Autoantibodies
  • Rituximab