Production of autoantibodies is one of the main features of primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS). Long-lived plasma cells (PC) can produce autoantibodies for prolonged period of times without being affected by immunosuppressive therapies. As of today, little is known about the long-lived PC subset and their contribution to autoimmunity. We have characterized the phenotypic and migratory properties of peripheral blood PC isolated from pSS patients (grouped by focus score, FS) and compared them to PC from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and normal non-autoimmune subjects. We observed two populations of PC in all study groups, CD19+ PC and CD19- PC. Interestingly, the CD19- PC subset was most prominent in autoimmune patients (pSS and RA) compared to normal controls. Further investigation of the PC phenotype revealed that a high percentage of both CD19+ and CD19- PC isolated from pSS and RA patients did not express the CD27 marker, which is normally highly expressed on all types of PC. Differences in the expression of markers such as IgM, IgG, CD95 and CXCR3 in the group with high FS compared to FS = 1, underscore the heterogeneity of pSS patient group and demonstrate that phenotypic pattern of circulating PC associates with the severity of inflammation in the salivary glands of these patients. Our migration experiments show that addition of CXCL12 to PC in vitro, do not alter the migration potential of PC in any group tested. However, we observed an overall higher spontaneous migration of PC from pSS compared to both RA and normal controls.
© 2011 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.