V-region gene analysis of locally defined synovial B and plasma cells reveals selected B cell expansion and accumulation of plasma cell clones in rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Jan;63(1):63-72. doi: 10.1002/art.27767.


Objective: To elucidate the development of synovial tissue-specific B cell immune responses, the clonality of individual naive B cells, memory B cells, and plasma cells and their organization and histologic localization in the inflamed tissue were investigated in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: B and plasma cells were isolated by laser capture microdissection (LCM) from the synovial tissue of patients with RA. In addition, single naive B cells, memory B cells, and plasma cells were sorted from synovial tissue cell suspensions. RNA was extracted from the cells, and Ig VH genes were amplified, cloned, and sequenced.

Results: Both LCM and single cell sorting analyses showed that naive and memory B cells infiltrated the RA synovial tissue. Comparison of the V-gene repertoire of B and plasma cells suggested that synovial plasma cells were generated, by and large, from locally activated B cells, indicating that a selected population of memory B cells differentiates into large plasma cell clones that then accumulate in the inflamed tissue. Clonally related plasma cells were isolated from separate and distinct localized areas of the tissue, suggesting that the newly generated plasma cells have a high migratory capacity.

Conclusion: These results support the idea of a continuous activation of selected B cell clones, and hence a massive accumulation of plasma cells, in RA synovial tissue. As B cells and their secreted antibodies are an important factor in controlling inflammatory processes, patients with RA displaying intensive synovial tissue lymphocytic infiltrations might benefit from B cell depletion therapy. Early treatment will prevent accumulation of pathogenic plasma cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / genetics*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / genetics*
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microdissection / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasma Cells / immunology
  • Plasma Cells / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Synovial Membrane / immunology
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism*


  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region