Extrafollicular responses in humans and SLE

Immunol Rev. 2019 Mar;288(1):136-148. doi: 10.1111/imr.12741.


Chronic autoimmune diseases, and in particular Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), are endowed with a long-standing autoreactive B-cell compartment that is presumed to reactivate periodically leading to the generation of new bursts of pathogenic antibody-secreting cells (ASC). Moreover, pathogenic autoantibodies are typically characterized by a high load of somatic hypermutation and in some cases are highly stable even in the context of prolonged B-cell depletion. Long-lived, highly mutated antibodies are typically generated through T-cell-dependent germinal center (GC) reactions. Accordingly, an important role for GC reactions in the generation of pathogenic autoreactivity has been postulated in SLE. Nevertheless, pathogenic autoantibodies and autoimmune disease can be generated through B-cell extrafollicular (EF) reactions in multiple mouse models and human SLE flares are characterized by the expansion of naive-derived activated effector B cells of extrafollicular phenotype. In this review, we will discuss the properties of the EF B-cell pathway, its relationship to other effector B-cell populations, its role in autoimmune diseases, and its contribution to human SLE. Furthermore, we discuss the relationship of EF B cells with Age-Associated B cells (ABCs), a TLR-7-driven B-cell population that mediates murine autoimmune and antiviral responses.

Keywords: ABC; B cells; DN2; SLE; extrafollicular; plasma cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / metabolism*
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Germinal Center / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7 / metabolism


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7