Operationally tolerant patients (TOL) display a higher number of blood B cells and transcriptional B cell signature. As they rarely develop an allo-immune response, they could display an abnormal B cell differentiation. We used an in vitro culture system to explore T-dependent differentiation of B cells into plasma cells. B cell phenotype, apoptosis, proliferation, cytokine, immunoglobulin production and markers of differentiation were followed in blood of these patients. Tolerant recipients show a higher frequency of CD20(+) CD24(hi) CD38(hi) transitional and CD20(+) CD38(lo) CD24(lo) naïve B cells compared to patients with stable graft function, correlating with a decreased frequency of CD20(-) CD38(+) CD138(+) differentiated plasma cells, suggestive of abnormal B cell differentiation. B cells from TOL proliferate normally but produce more IL-10. In addition, B cells from tolerant recipients exhibit a defective expression of factors of the end step of differentiation into plasma cells and show a higher propensity for cell death apoptosis compared to patients with stable graft function. This in vitro profile is consistent with down-regulation of B cell differentiation genes and anti-apoptotic B cell genes in these patients in vivo. These data suggest that a balance between B cells producing IL-10 and a deficiency in plasma cells may encourage an environment favorable to the tolerance maintenance.
Keywords: Apoptosis; B cells; cytokine; differentiation; tolerance; transplantation.
© Copyright 2013 The American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.