BAFF: a local and systemic target in autoimmune diseases

Clin Exp Immunol. 2009 Nov;158(2):155-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2009.04007.x. Epub 2009 Jul 30.


BAFF (B lymphocyte activating factor of the tumour necrosis factor family) is a vital homeostatic cytokine for B cells that helps regulate both innate and adaptive immune responses. Increased serum levels of BAFF are found in a number of different autoimmune diseases, and BAFF is found in inflammatory sites in which there is lymphoid neogenesis. BAFF antagonism has been used in several autoimmune disease models, resulting in B cell depletion, decreased activation of T cells and dendritic cells (DC) and a reduction in the overall inflammatory burden. BAFF, through its interaction with BAFF-R, is required for survival of late transitional, marginal zone and mature naive B cells, all of which are depleted by BAFF blockade. Through their interactions with TACI (transmembrane activator and calcium modulator and cyclophilin ligand interactor) and BCMA (B cell maturation protein), BAFF and its homologue APRIL (a proliferation-inducing ligand), support the survival of at least some subsets of plasma cells; blockade of both cytokines results in a decrease in serum levels of immunoglobulin (Ig)G. In contrast, neither BAFF nor APRIL is required for the survival or reactivation of memory B cells or B1 cells. BAFF also helps DC maturation and interleukin (IL)-6 release and is required for proper formation of a follicular dendritic cell (FDC) network within germinal centres, although not for B cell affinity maturation. The clinical efficacy of BAFF blockade in animal models of autoimmunity may be caused both by the decline in the number of inflammatory cells and by the inhibition of DC maturation within target organs. Blockade of BAFF and its homologue APRIL are being explored for human use; several Phase I and II clinical trials of BAFF inhibitors for autoimmunity have been completed and Phase III trials are in progress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • B-Cell Activating Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • B-Cell Activating Factor / immunology*
  • B-Cell Activation Factor Receptor / immunology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Ligand Superfamily Member 13 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Ligand Superfamily Member 13 / immunology


  • B-Cell Activating Factor
  • B-Cell Activation Factor Receptor
  • TNFRSF13C protein, human
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Ligand Superfamily Member 13