Objectives: Lung transplant is a last treatment option for patients with end-stage pulmonary disease. Chronic lung allograft dysfunction, which generally manifests as bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome, is a major long-term survival limitation. Bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome is diagnosed when forced expiratory volume in 1 second declines > 20% in the absence of known causes. B cells can either contribute or restrain the development of bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (eg, via induction of alloimmune antibodies, regulation of cellular immunity, and induction of tolerance). Here, we explored how peripheral B-cell subsets were altered in lung transplant recipients with bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome.
Materials and methods: Fresh whole blood samples were analyzed from 42 lung transplant recipients, including 17 with bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome; samples from these groups were compared with 10 age-matched healthy control samples. B-cell subsets were analyzed using flow cytometry, and relative distributions of subsets were compared. Changes in forced expiratory volume in 1 second were also determined.
Results: Absolute B-cell count was significantly increased in transplant recipients with bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome. Transitional (CD24+CD38+) and naïve (CD27-IgD+) B cells were decreased in lung transplant patients, with transitional B cells almost absent in those with bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome. Double-negative (CD27-IgD-) memory B cells were significantly increased (P < .001). No differences were found for plasmablasts (CD38+CD24-) and switched (CD27+IgD-) and non-switched (CD27+IgD+) memory B cells. Correlation analyses showed positive correlations between lung function and naïve B cells in transplant recipients (P = .0245; r = -0.458).
Conclusions: Peripheral B-cell count and subset distribution were altered in lung transplant recipients with and without bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome compared with healthy controls. Transitional and naïve B-cell decreases may be caused by differentiation toward double-negative B-cells, which were increased. The correlation between forced expiratory volume and naïve B cells during follow-up care may be clinically interesting to investigate.