Single-cell transcriptome analysis reveals functional changes in tumour-infiltrating B lymphocytes after chemotherapy in oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma

Clin Transl Med. 2023 Jan;13(1):e1181. doi: 10.1002/ctm2.1181.


Background: Tumour immune microenvironment is related with carcinogenesis and efficacy of immunotherapy. B cells play major roles in humoral immunity, but detailed functions of tumour-infiltrating B lymphocytes (TIL-Bs) are unknown. Therefore, our aim was to investigate the functional heterogeneity of TIL-Bs in oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) and lymph nodes (LNs) during chemotherapy.

Methods: Single-cell transcriptome analysis was performed on 23 specimens. We also performed immunohistochemical analysis of immunoglobulin κ C (IGKC), an antibody-secreting cell (ASC) marker, in 166 ESCC samples and evaluated the implication of IGKC in 2-year recurrence free survival (RFS) and 3-year overall survival (OS).

Results: A total of 81,246 cells were grouped into 24 clusters. We extracted B cell clusters based on canonical markers and identified 12 TIL-B subtypes in ESCC. We found that several functions, such as co-stimulation and CD40 signalling, were enhanced in TIL-Bs after chemotherapy. The proportion of naive B cells (NBCs) decreased and B cell activation genes were up-regulated in NBCs after chemotherapy. The proportion of ASCs in tumours increased with the loss of migratory abilities and antibody production in ASCs was promoted after chemotherapy. Differentially expressed genes up-regulated with chemotherapy in ASCs correlated with prolonged survival with oesophageal cancer (p = .028). In a metastatic LN, the ASC proportion increased and B cell differentiation was enhanced. In immunohistochemical analysis, RFS and OS of high IGKC expression cases were significantly better than those of low IGKC expression cases (RFS: p < .0001, OS: p < .0001). And in multivariable analysis, the expression of IGKC was an independent favourable prognostic factor for RFS (hazard ratio (HR): 0.23, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.12-0.45, p < .0001) and OS (HR: 0.20, 95% CI: 0.086-0.47, p = .0002) in ESCC.

Conclusions: Our findings provide novel insights for the heterogeneity of TIL-Bs during chemotherapy and will be useful to understand the clinical importance of TIL-Bs.

Keywords: neoadjuvant chemotherapy; oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma; single-cell transcriptome; tumour immune microenvironment; tumour infiltrating B lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma* / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Single-Cell Gene Expression Analysis
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics