This study aimed to examine the frequency of different subsets of circulating B and T follicular helper (Tfh) cells in patients with new-onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and following standard therapies. Twenty-five RA patients and 15 healthy controls (HC) were recruited for characterizing the frequency of CD27⁺, immunoglobulin (Ig)D⁺, CD86⁺, CD95⁺, Toll-like receptor (TLR)-9⁺ B cells and inducible T cell co-stimulator (ICOS) and programmed death 1 (PD-1)-positive Tfh cells and the level of serum interleukin (IL)-21. The potential correlation between the frequency of different subsets of B and Tfh cells and the values of clinical measures in RA patients was analysed. In comparison with HC, significantly higher percentages of circulating IgD⁺ CD27⁻ CD19⁺ naive B, CD86⁺ CD19⁺ and CD95⁺ CD19⁺ activated B, CD3⁺ CD4⁺ CXCR5⁺, CD3⁺ CD4⁺ CXCR5⁺ ICOS⁺, CD3⁺ CD4⁺ CXCR5⁺ PD-1⁺ and CD3⁺ CD4⁺ CXCR5⁺ ICOS⁺ PD-1⁺ Tfh cells but lower IgD⁺ CD27⁺ CD19⁺ preswitch memory B cells were detected, accompanied by significantly higher levels of serum IL-21 in the RA patients. Furthermore, the percentages of CD95⁺ B cells were correlated positively with the frequency of PD-1⁺ Tfh cells, but negatively with ICOS⁺ Tfh cells. The percentages of CD86⁺ B cells and ICOS⁺ Tfh cells were correlated positively with the values of disease activity score 28 (DAS28). Following the drug therapies for 1 month, the percentages of CD86⁺ B and PD-1⁺ Tfh cells were reduced significantly in the drug-responding patients. Our data suggest that activated B and Tfh cells may contribute to the pathogenesis of RA and the frequency of activated B and Tfh cells may be used as biomarkers for evaluating the therapeutic responses of individual patients with RA.
Keywords: B cells; CD86; RA; Tfh cells; therapy.
© 2013 British Society for Immunology.