Background: There is accumulating evidence from immunological, pathological and therapeutic studies that B cells are key components in the pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Methodology/principal findings: In this prospective study we have for the first time investigated the differences in the inflammatory response between relapsing and progressive MS by comparing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cell profiles from patients at the onset of the disease (clinically isolated syndrome, CIS), relapsing-remitting (RR) and chronic progressive (CP) MS by flow cytometry. As controls we have used patients with other neurological diseases. We have found a statistically significant accumulation of CSF mature B cells (CD19+CD138-) and plasma blasts (CD19+CD138+) in CIS and RRMS. Both B cell populations were, however, not significantly increased in CPMS. Further, this accumulation of B cells correlated with acute brain inflammation measured by magnetic resonance imaging and with inflammatory CSF parameters such as the number of CSF leukocytes, intrathecal immunoglobulin M and G synthesis and intrathecal production of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 and the B cell chemokine CxCL-13.
Conclusions: Our data support an important role of CSF B cells in acute brain inflammation in CIS and RRMS.