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Tofacitinib, a JAK inhibitor, inhibits human B cell activation in vitro
  1. Sheau-Pey Wang,
  2. Shigeru Iwata,
  3. Shingo Nakayamada,
  4. Kei Sakata,
  5. Kunihiro Yamaoka,
  6. Yoshiya Tanaka
  1. The First Department of Internal Medicine, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Professor Yoshiya Tanaka, The First Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan, 1-1 Iseigaoka, Yahatanishi-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 807-8555, Japan; tanaka{at}

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B cells initiate and perpetuate autoimmune disease processes. Interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-21 produced by follicular helper T cells are required for B cell activation, germinal centre formation, immunoglobulin class switching and plasma cell differentiation.1 ,2 The JAK inhibitor tofacitinib is approved for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. We recently reported that tofacitinib can suppress IL-17 and interferon-γ production by CD4+ T cells3 and inhibit the T cell stimulatory capacity of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells.4 However, whether this action involves B cell activation remains unclear.

Here we investigated the in vitro effects of tofacitinib on the gene regulatory network that controls B cell class switching and differentiation. Purified CD19+ B cells were stimulated with B cell antigen receptor (BCR), soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L) and cytokines with/without tofacitinib. Culture medium was replenished on day 3. Cell viability tests revealed that, although B cell survival decreased considerably over time, the possibility of pharmacological toxicity by tofacitinib could be excluded (data not shown).

The expression of AICDA was slightly induced by cytokines or BCR/sCD40L alone, while costimulation with BCR, sCD40L and cytokines, especially IL-4, caused robust gene expression (figure 1A). BCL6 and XBP-1 exhibited similar expression patterns, …

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  • Contributors All authors were involved in drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content, and all authors approved the final version to be published. YT had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Funding This work was supported in part by a Research Grant-In-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan.

  • Competing interests YT has received consulting fees, speaking fees and/or honoraria from Chugai Pharma, Mitsubishi-Tanabe Pharma, Eisai Pharma, Pfizer, Abbott Immunology Pharma, Janssen Pharma, Takeda Industrial Pharma, Astra-Zeneca, Astellas Pharma, Asahi-kasei Pharma and GlaxoSmithKline and has received research grant support from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Mitsubishi-Tanabe Pharma, MSD, Takeda Industrial Pharma, Astellas Pharma, Eisai Pharma, Chugai Pharma, Pfizer and Daiichi-Sankyo. KS is employee of the Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.