Rheumatoid arthritis patients display B-cell dysregulation already in the naïve repertoire consistent with defects in B-cell tolerance

Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 27;9(1):19995. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-56279-0.


B cells are postulated to be central in seropositive rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Here, we use exploratory mass cytometry (n = 23) and next-generation sequencing (n = 19) to study B-cell repertoire shifts in RA patients. Expression of several B-cell markers were significantly different in ACPA+ RA compared to healthy controls, including an increase in HLA-DR across subsets, CD22 in clusters of IgM+ B cells and CD11c in IgA+ memory. Moreover, both IgA+ and IgG+ double negative (IgD- CD27-) CD11c+ B cells were increased in ACPA+ RA, and there was a trend for elevation in a CXCR5/CCR6high transitional B-cell cluster. In the RA BCR repertoire, there were significant differences in subclass distribution and, notably, the frequency of VH with low somatic hypermutation (SHM) was strikingly higher, especially in IgG1 (p < 0.0001). Furthermore, both ACPA+ and ACPA- RA patients had significantly higher total serum IgA and IgM compared to controls, based on serology of larger cohorts (n = 3494 IgA; n = 397 IgM). The observed elevated Ig-levels, distortion in IgM+ B cells, increase in double negative B cells, change in B-cell markers, and elevation of unmutated IgG+ B cells suggests defects in B-cell tolerance in RA. This may represent an underlying cause of increased polyreactivity and autoimmunity in RA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / etiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmunity
  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers
  • CD11c Antigen / metabolism
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / metabolism


  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • CD11c Antigen
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell