Therapeutic Cytokine Inhibition Modulates Activation and Homing Receptors of Peripheral Memory B Cell Subsets in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Zafar Mahmood, Marc Schmalzing, Thomas Dörner, Hans Peter Tony, Khalid Muhammad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Memory B cells have known to play an important role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). With the emergence of B cell-targeted therapies, the modulation of memory B cells appears to be a key therapeutic target. Human peripheral memory B cells can be distinguished based on the phenotypic expression of CD27 and IgD, characterizing the three major B cell subpopulations: CD27+IgD+ pre-switch, CD27+IgD- post-switch, and CD27-IgD- double-negative memory B cells. We evaluated different memory cell populations for activation markers (CD95 and Ki-67) and chemokine receptors (CXCR3 and 4) expressing B cells in active RA, as well as under IL6-R blockade by tocilizumab (TCZ) and TNF-α blockade by adalimumab (ADA). Memory B cells were phenotypically analyzed from RA patients at baseline, week 12, and week 24 under TCZ or ADA treatment, respectively. Using flow cytometry, surface expression of CD95, intracellular Ki-67, and surface expressions of CXCR3 and CXCR4 were determined. Compared with healthy donors (n = 40), the phenotypic analysis of RA patients (n = 80) demonstrated that all three types of memory B cells were activated in RA patients. Surface and intracellular staining of B cells showed a significantly higher percentage of CD95+ (p < 0.0001) and Ki-67+ (p < 0.0001) cells, with numerically altered CXCR3+ and CXCR4+ cells in RA. CD95 and Ki-67 expressions were highest in post-switch memory B cells, whereas CD19+CXCR3+ and CD19+CXCR4+ expressing cells were substantially higher in the pre-switch compartment. In all subsets of the memory B cells, in vivo IL-6R, and TNF-α blockade significantly reduced the enhanced expressions of CD95 and Ki-67. Based on our findings, we conclude that the three major peripheral memory B cell populations, pre-, post-switch, and double-negative B cells, are activated in RA, demonstrating enhanced CD95 and Ki-67 expressions, and varied expression of CXCR3 and CXCR4 chemokine receptors when compared with healthy individuals. This activation can be efficaciously modulated under cytokine inhibition in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number572475
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Publication statusPublished - Sept 11 2020


  • B cells
  • adalimumab
  • inflammation
  • memory B cells
  • rheumatoid arhritis
  • tocilizumab (IL-6 inhibitor)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Therapeutic Cytokine Inhibition Modulates Activation and Homing Receptors of Peripheral Memory B Cell Subsets in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this