Whether and how B lymphocytes contribute to the pathogenesis of spondylarthritis (SpA), a seronegative arthritis associated with gut inflammation, remains unknown. Because innate-like CD5+ B lymphocytes with regulatory functions have been identified in colitis models, we undertook the present study to analyze the presence and function of CD5+ B cells in human SpA.
Peripheral blood B cells from patients with SpA, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and healthy controls were analyzed by flow cytometry. Synovial biopsy samples were evaluated by immunohistochemistry analysis. Sorted CD5+ and CD5− B cells were analyzed for somatic hypermutation, expression of costimulatory molecules, and cytokine production.
The naive, marginal zone–like, and to a lesser extent memory B cell compartments in patients with SpA exhibited a clear and specific increase of CD5+ B cells, which was not found in patients with RA. This increase was not due to either B cell activation or preferential migration of CD5− B cells to the inflamed synovium. Consistent with their phenotype and the low-affinity polyreactive immunoglobulins produced by their murine counterpart cells, CD5+ B cells from patients with SpA showed low levels of somatic hypermutation. With regard to antigen presentation, CD5+ B cells expressed slightly increased HLA–DR levels but low CD80 and CD86 levels. In vitro activation failed to up-regulate these costimulatory molecules but induced significant production of interleukin-10 and interleukin-6 by CD5+ B cells.
CD5+ B cells are specifically increased in SpA. Analysis of somatic hypermutation, expression of antigen-presenting and costimulatory molecules, and cytokine production indicates that this B cell subset has regulatory capacities. Further investigation of the potential role of CD5+ cells in SpA is warranted.