Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that is caused by the interplay of genetic, particularly the HLA-DR15 haplotype, and environmental risk factors. How these etiologic factors contribute to generating an autoreactive CD4+ T cell repertoire is not clear. Here, we demonstrate that self-reactivity, defined as "autoproliferation" of peripheral Th1 cells, is elevated in patients carrying the HLA-DR15 haplotype. Autoproliferation is mediated by memory B cells in a HLA-DR-dependent manner. Depletion of B cells in vitro and therapeutically in vivo by anti-CD20 effectively reduces T cell autoproliferation. T cell receptor deep sequencing showed that in vitro autoproliferating T cells are enriched for brain-homing T cells. Using an unbiased epitope discovery approach, we identified RASGRP2 as target autoantigen that is expressed in the brain and B cells. These findings will be instrumental to address important questions regarding pathogenic B-T cell interactions in multiple sclerosis and possibly also to develop novel therapies.
Keywords: B cells; HLA-DR15; RASGRP2; T cell receptor; T cells; autoproliferation; brain; multiple sclerosis; pathogenesis.
Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.