Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is a systemic rheumatic autoimmune disease affecting the exocrine glandular function and is characterized by the presence of autoantibodies against the ribonucleoprotein particles, SS-A/Ro and SS-B/La, and mononuclear cell infiltration of exocrine tissues. Our aim is to characterize memory B cell pattern and function in relation to the progression of the disease, by analysing samples from a well-defined cohort of patients with primary SS. We have measured the number of Ro/La-specific plasma cells in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 23 patients and 20 healthy controls by direct enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay. Furthermore, we quantified the Ro- and La-specific memory B cells in these individuals by a 6-day in vitro polyclonal stimulation of PBMC followed by an antigen-specific ELISPOT assay for the detection of memory B cells. In addition to this, ELISA profiling of autoantibodies was carried out using patients' plasma and supernatant, collected post-mitogen stimulation of PBMC. The average Ro60-, Ro52- and La48-specific plasma cells in PB was 9, 17 and 13 cells in 10(5) PBMC, respectively. After in vitro stimulation, these numbers increased to 43, 50 and 26 for Ro60, Ro52 and La48, correspondingly. However, the fraction of memory B cells activated into antibody-secreting cells was lower than the overall IgG B cell population. We conclude that these lower Ro/La-specific memory B cell levels may indicate that a greater portion of the Ro- and La-specific B cells are in an activated stage. This is in tune with previous reports.
© 2011 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.