Primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) is characterized by the presence of autoantibodies against the ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles Ro/SSA and La/SSB, and mononuclear cell infiltration of exocrine tissues, especially salivary and lachrymal glands. Low numbers of autoantigen-specific memory B cells and elevated levels of plasma cells have been detected previously in the peripheral blood (PB) of pSS patients compared to controls. As both Ro52 and Ro60-specific cells have been detected in the salivary glands (SG) of pSS patients, we aimed to characterize the SSA-specific B cell pattern in SG biopsies. A series of double immunohistochemical stainings were performed on paraffin-embedded tissue from 10 well-characterized pSS patients for each Ro52 and Ro60 along with CD19, CD5, CD20 or CD27, respectively. Ro52 and Ro60-specific cells detected in SG tissue were found to be CD19(+) B cells located outside the CD19(+)/CD20(+) B cell zones (BCZ) and also interstitially. These SSA-specific cells were also quantified. No SSA-specific cells were CD5(+), indicating that they do not belong to the B-1 B cell subset. Furthermore, no SSA-specific cells were observed within the CD20(+) BCZ. Hence, no SSA-specific memory B cells were detected in these individuals. Contrary to this, SSA-specific cells were found to be CD19(+)/CD27(++), demonstrating that they are differentiating short or long-lived plasma cells. Taken together, our findings suggest that these lower levels of SSA-specific memory B cells in PB and absence of SSA-specific memory B cells in SG of pSS patients could result from activation of these cells into plasma cells at the site of inflammation.
© 2012 British Society for Immunology.