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Immunology - Rheumatology

Molecular Characterization of Circulating Plasma Cells in Patients with Active Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Author: Patricia L. Lugar et al.

by Patricia L. Lugar, Cassandra Love, Amrie C. Grammer, Sandeep S. Dave, Peter E. Lipsky

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a generalized autoimmune disease characterized by abnormal B cell activation and the occurrence of increased frequencies of circulating plasma cells (PC). The molecular characteristics and nature of circulating PC and B cells in SLE have not been completely characterized. Microarray analysis of gene expression was used to characterize circulating PC in subjects with active SLE. Flow cytometry was used to sort PC and comparator B cell populations from active SLE blood, normal blood and normal tonsil. The gene expression profiles of the sorted B cell populations were then compared. SLE PC exhibited a similar gene expression signature as tonsil PC. The differences in gene expression between SLE PC and normal tonsil PC and tonsil plasmablasts (PB) suggest a mature Ig secreting cell phenotype in the former population. Despite this, SLE PC differed in expression of about half the genes from previously published gene expression profiles of normal bone marrow PC, indicating that these cells had not achieved a fully mature status. Abnormal expression of several genes, including CXCR4 and S1P1, suggests a mechanism for the persistence of SLE PC in the circulation. All SLE B cell populations revealed an interferon (IFN) gene signature previously only reported in unseparated SLE peripheral blood mononuclear cells. These data indicate that SLE PC are a unique population of Ig secreting cells with a gene expression profile indicative of a mature, but not fully differentiated phenotype.