Background Increasing evidence points to the autoimmune process of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) originating at mucosal surfaces. Previous work from our group described a subset of B cells in the synovium and synovial fluid (SF) of RA patients which can be distinguished by their expression of the Fc-like receptor 4 (FcRL4) and elevated expression of RANKL, indicating a unique pathogenic function1,2. B cells expressing FcRL4 were originally described as a distinct memory B cell subset in human tonsils where they accumulate in the epithelium3. We have recently shown that they are enriched in cells recognizing citrullinated autoantigens (Amara, K. et al. under revision). Recent in vitro work suggested that FcRL4 is a low affinity receptor for aggregated IgA4.
Objectives 1) To investigate the interaction of RA synovial fluid FCRL4+ B cells with IgA
2) To examine the distribution of Ig classes by flow cytometry and PCR
Methods SF mononuclear cells were isolated, labelled for FcRL4, IgA and CD19 and analysed by flow cytometry. In experiments identifying IgA B cell receptors, SF mononuclear cells were briefly incubated in an acidic buffer to remove surface receptor bound antibodies before staining. Heat-aggregated purified human IgA was added to assess IgA binding to FcRL4+ B cells. Single B cells were sorted from SF of RA patients and their constant region genes probed for identification of their Ig subclass by PCR.
Results Ex vivo, FcRL4+ B cells in SF of RA patients have a higher load of IgA bound to their surface compared to their FcRL4- counterparts. After in vitro removal of surface bound IgA, they can bind heat-aggregated IgA (p=0.0313). We also demonstrate that a significantly higher proportion of FcRL4+ B cells use IgA BCRs (p=0.0061) by flow cytometry and further more by probing constant region genes by PCR an enrichment for Ig genes for coding the IgA1 isotype (p=0.009) was found.
Conclusions Both their ability to capture IgA immune complexes through binding to FcRL4 and their enrichment in IgA Ig gene expression suggest a potential role for synovial fluid FcRL4+ B cells in the mucosal origin of joint inflammation.
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Disclosure of Interest None declared