Insights into the heterogeneity of human B cells: diverse functions, roles in autoimmunity, and use as therapeutic targets
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- Anolik, J.H., Looney, R.J., Lund, F.E. et al. Immunol Res (2009) 45: 144. doi:10.1007/s12026-009-8096-7
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B cells are critical players in the orchestration of properly regulated immune responses, providing protection against infectious agents without inflicting autoinflammatory damage. A balanced B cell compartment is also essential to create protective immunity in response to vaccines. This difficult compromise is achieved through the finely regulated participation of multiple B cell populations with different antibody-dependent and independent functions. Both types of functions allow B cells to powerfully modulate other components of the innate and adaptive immune system. For the most part, however, the necessary division of labor among different B cell populations is poorly understood. B cell dysfunction has been implicated in multiple autoimmune conditions. The physiological importance and complexity of B cell functions has been brought to the fore in recent years by the success of rituximab-based B cell depletion therapy (BCDT) in multiple autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis (MS) which are conventionally viewed as T-cell mediated conditions. Given the widespread utilization of BCDT in malignant and autoimmune diseases and the key role of B cells in both protective immunity and pathogenic autoimmunity, a better understanding of B cell functions is of the essence and a focus of the research in our division. We are investigating these issues through a variety of approaches, including the study of the phenotype and function of human B cell populations in health, their perturbation in autoimmune disease states, the effects of targeted biologic therapies, and the study of relevant murine models.