Objective: B-cell-activating factor (BAFF) and a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) signaling pathways regulate B-cell survival through interactions with their receptors BAFF-R, TACI and BCMA. We evaluated the association of these ligands/receptors on B-cell subsets according to clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: BAFF and APRIL serum concentrations were measured in 30 SLE patients by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The BAFF-R, TACI and BCMA expression was analyzed on each B cell subset (CD19 + CD27-CD38-/ + naïve; CD19 + CD27 + CD38-/ + memory; CD19 + CD27-CD38 + + immature and CD19 + CD27 + CD38 + + plasma cells) by flow cytometry, and compared among patients with different clinical manifestations as well as healthy controls (HCs).
Results: Serum BAFF and APRIL levels were high in SLE patients and correlated with the Mex-SLEDAI disease activity index (r = 0.584; p = 0.001 and r = 0.456; p = 0.011, respectively). The SLE patients showed an increased proportion of memory and plasma B cells (p < 0.05). BAFF-R, TACI and BCMA expression in SLE patients was decreased in almost all B cell subsets compared to HCs (p < 0.05). A lower BCMA expression was associated with severe disease activity, glomerulonephritis, serositis and hemolytic anemia (p < 0.01). BCMA expression showed a negative correlation with Mex-SLEDAI score (r = -0.494, p = 0.006).
Conclusions: Decreased BCMA expression on peripheral B cells according to severe disease activity suggests that BCMA plays an important regulating role in B-cell hyperactivity and immune tolerance homeostasis in SLE patients.
Keywords: B cell subsets; BAFF; BAFF receptors; BAFF-R; BCMA; Systemic lupus erythematosus; disease activity.
© The Author(s) 2015.