Objectives: The role of B cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been well established with the advent of B-cell targeted therapies. Alterations of peripheral B-cell subsets in RA and heterogeneous modulations of the B-cell compartment under tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibition have been described. In this study we examined the influence of rheumatoid factor (RF) positivity on the peripheral B-cell compartment and its modulation under TNF blockade. Methods: Consecutive patients with RA and inadequate response to methotrexate (MTX) were stratified according to RF status and a subset of them was included in a prospective study of weekly etanercept treatment. Results: At baseline, RF-negative patients had a significant higher percentage of overall CD27 B cells compared to healthy controls (HC) and RF-positive patients. In detail, RF-negative patients had 46.6 (range 15.786.8) CD27 B cells compared to 31.3 (12.956.9, p 0.026) in HC and 29.8 (1973.3, p 0.04) in RF-positive patients. Within the CD27 compartment, CD27/immunoglobulin (Ig)D memory B cells were significantly increased to 26.4 (range 5.954.7) in RF-negative patients compared to 14.9 (4.127.3, p 0.006) in HC and 10.5 (3.441.1, p 0.003) in RF-positive patients. During anti-TNF therapy, memory B cells increased significantly in relative and absolute numbers only in RF-negative patients. Conclusions: In RF-negative patients, we observed an enhanced frequency of peripheral memory B cells and an accumulation of pre-switch memory B cells. During anti-TNF therapy, memory B cells increased significantly only in RF-negative patients, suggesting that the peripheral memory B-cell compartment is more amenable to TNF inhibition in these patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy