Objective: The molecular mechanisms steering abnormal B cell responses in autoimmune diseases remain poorly understood. We undertook this study to identify molecular switches controlling pathologic B cell responses in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Candidate molecules were identified by gene expression profiling of RA synovitis and validated by quantitative polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry. B cell-specific expression was confirmed by immunofluorescence, immunoblotting, and flow cytometry. The role of Bob1 in pathologic B cell responses was assessed in collagen-induced arthritis (CIA).
Results: Transcriptional profiling of RA synovitis revealed a prominent B cell signature, with the transcriptional coactivator Bob1 and its putative target BCMA being among the most up-regulated genes. Further analysis confirmed the microarray data and demonstrated elevated levels of Bob1 in B cells in RA synovium. A functional study showed that Bob1-deficient mice failed to produce pathogenic anti-type II collagen (anti-CII) antibodies and were resistant to CIA. Adoptive transfer of cells from Bob1-deficient and Bob1-sufficient mice to recombination-activating gene 1-null mice demonstrated that Bob1 deficiency exclusively in B cells abrogated germinal center (GC) B cell formation, anti-CII antibody production, and CIA development. Consistent with data from animal studies, immunophenotyping of human B cell subsets revealed increased expression of Bob1, predominantly in centrocytes and centroblasts. Correspondingly, Bob1 expression in RA synovitis was strongly correlated with CD21L, a molecular marker of GCs. In addition, similar Bob1 overexpression and correlation with CD21L expression was evidenced in parotid salivary gland tissue from patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome.
Conclusion: These expression and functional data identify the transcriptional coactivator Bob1 as a candidate molecular switch of pathogenic B cell responses in autoimmune diseases in humans.
© 2016, American College of Rheumatology.