Interferon-α (IFN-α) produced at high levels by human plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) can specifically regulate B-cell activation to Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7/8 stimulation. To explore the influence of IFN-α and pDCs on B-cell functions in vivo, studies in non-human primates that closely resemble humans in terms of TLR expression on different subsets of immune cells are valuable. Here, we performed a side-by side comparison of the response pattern between human and rhesus macaque B cells and pDCs in vitro to well-defined TLR ligands and tested whether IFN-α enhanced B-cell function comparably. We found that both human and rhesus B cells proliferated while pDCs from both species produced high levels of IFN-α in response to ligands targeting TLR7/8 and TLR9. Both human and rhesus B-cell proliferation to TLR7/8 ligand and CpG class C was significantly increased in the presence of IFN-α. Although both human and rhesus B cells produced IgM upon stimulation, only human B cells acquired high expression of CD27 associated with plasmablast formation. Instead, rhesus B-cell differentiation and IgM levels correlated to down-regulation of CD20. These data suggest that the response pattern of human and rhesus B cells and pDCs to TLR7/8 and TLR9 is similar, although some differences in the cell surface phenotype of the differentiating cells exist. A more thorough understanding of potential similarities and differences between human and rhesus cells and their response to potential vaccine components will provide important information for translating non-human primate studies into human trials.
© 2011 The Authors. Immunology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.