Altered Distribution of Peripheral Blood Maturation-Associated B-Cell Subsets in Chronic Alcoholism

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2015 Aug;39(8):1476-84. doi: 10.1111/acer.12783. Epub 2015 Jul 4.


Background: Although decreased counts of peripheral blood (PB) B cells-associated with an apparently contradictory polyclonal hypergammaglobulinemia-have been reported in chronic alcoholism, no information exists about the specific subsets of circulating B cells altered and their relationship with antibody production. Here, we analyzed for the first time the distribution of multiple maturation-associated subpopulations of PB B cells in alcoholism and its potential relationship with the onset of liver disease.

Methods: PB samples from 35 male patients-20 had alcoholic hepatitis (AH) and 15 chronic alcoholism without liver disease (AWLD)-were studied, in parallel to 19 male healthy donors (controls). The distribution of PB B-cell subsets (immature/regulatory, naïve, CD27(-) and CD27(+) memory B lymphocytes, and circulating plasmablasts of distinct immunoglobulin-Ig-isotypes) was analyzed by flow cytometry.

Results: Patients with AH showed significantly decreased numbers of total PB B lymphocytes (vs. controls and AWLD), at the expense of immature, memory, and, to a lesser extent, also naïve B cells. AWLD showed reduced numbers of immature and naïve B cells (vs. controls), but higher PB counts of plasmablasts (vs. the other 2 groups). Although PB memory B cells were reduced among the patients, the percentage of surface (s)IgA(+) cells (particularly CD27(-) /sIgA(+) cells) was increased in AH, whereas both sIgG(+) and sIgA(+) memory B cells were significantly overrepresented in AWLD versus healthy donors. Regarding circulating plasmablasts, patients with AH only showed significantly reduced counts of sIgG(+) cells versus controls. In contrast, the proportion of both sIgA(+) and sIgG(+) plasmablasts-from all plasmablasts-was reduced in AH and increased in AWLD (vs. the other 2 groups).

Conclusions: AH and AWLD patients display a significantly reduced PB B-cell count, at the expense of decreased numbers of recently produced immature/regulatory B cells and naïve B cells, together with an increase in Ig-switched memory B lymphocytes and plasmablasts, particularly of IgA(+) cells.

Keywords: Alcoholic Hepatitis; Bregs; Chronic Alcoholism; Circulating PB B-Cell Subsets; Liver Disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / blood*
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / blood*
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism*
  • Male