A significant proportion of autoimmune-associated genetic variants are expressed in B cells, suggesting that B cells may play multiple roles in autoimmune pathogenesis. In this review, we highlight recent studies demonstrating that even modest alterations in B cell signaling are sufficient to promote autoimmunity. First, we describe several examples of genetic variations promoting B cell-intrinsic initiation of autoimmune germinal centers and autoantibody production. We highlight how dual antigen receptor/toll-like receptor signals greatly facilitate this process and how activated, self-reactive B cells may function as antigen presenting cells, leading to loss of T cell tolerance. Further, we propose that B cell-derived cytokines may initiate and/or sustain autoimmune germinal centers, likely also contributing, in parallel, to programing of self-reactive T cells.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.