Clonal Characteristics of Circulating B Lymphocyte Repertoire in Primary Biliary Cholangitis

J Immunol. 2016 Sep 1;197(5):1609-20. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1600096. Epub 2016 Jul 18.


Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) is an autoimmune liver disease characterized by elevated serum anti-mitochondrial Ab and lymphocyte-mediated bile duct damage. This study was designed to reveal the clonal characteristics of B lymphocyte repertoire in patients with PBC to facilitate better understanding of its pathogenesis and better management of these patients. Using high-throughput sequencing of Ig genes, we analyzed the repertoire of circulating B lymphocytes in 43 patients with PBC, and 34 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. Compared with healthy controls, PBC patients showed 1) a gain of 14 new clones and a loss of 8 clones; 2) a significant clonal expansion and increased relative IgM abundance, which corresponded with the elevated serum IgM level; 3) a significant reduction of clonal diversity and somatic hypermutations in class-switched sequences, which suggested a general immunocompromised status; 4) the reduction of clonal diversity and enhancement of clonal expansion were more obvious at the cirrhotic stage; and 5) treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid could increase the clonal diversity and reduce clonal expansion of the IgM repertoire, with no obvious effect on the somatic hypermutation level. Our data suggest that PBC is a complex autoimmune disease process with evidence of B lymphocyte clonal gains and losses, Ag-dependent ogligoclonal expansion, and a generally compromised immune reserve. This new insight into the pathogenesis of PBC opens up the prospect of studying disease-relevant B cells to better diagnose and treat this devastating disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Cholangitis / immunology*
  • Cholangitis / physiopathology
  • Clone Cells
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / immunology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid