The tight-skin (TSK/+) mouse, a genetic model for human systemic sclerosis (SSc), develops cutaneous fibrosis and autoantibodies against SSc-specific target autoantigens. Although molecular mechanisms explaining the development of fibrosis and autoimmunity in SSc patients or TSK/+ mice remain unknown, we recently demonstrated that SSc patients overexpress CD19, an important regulatory molecule expressed by B lymphocytes. B cells from CD19-deficient mice are hyporesponsive to transmembrane signals, while B cells overexpressing CD19 are hyperresponsive and generate autoantibodies. In this study, TSK/+ B cells also exhibited a hyperresponsive phenotype with decreased surface IgM expression, enhanced serum Ig production, and spontaneous autoantibody production. Moreover, CD19 tyrosine phosphorylation was constitutively augmented in TSK/+ B cells. CD19-mediated [Ca2+]i responses, Vav phosphorylation, and Lyn kinase activity were similarly enhanced. Studies of TSK/+ mice deficient in CD19 expression demonstrated that CD19 deficiency significantly decreased skin fibrosis in TSK/+ mice. Additionally, CD19 loss in TSK/+ mice upregulated surface IgM expression and completely abrogated hyper-γ-globulinemia and autoantibody production. CD19 deficiency also inhibited IL-6 production by TSK/+ B cells. Thus, chronic B cell activation resulting from augmented CD19 signaling in TSK/+ mice leads to skin sclerosis possibly through IL-6 overproduction as well as autoimmunity.
Eriko Saito, Manabu Fujimoto, Minoru Hasegawa, Kazuhiro Komura, Yasuhito Hamaguchi, Yuko Kaburagi, Tetsuya Nagaoka, Kazuhiko Takehara, Thomas F. Tedder, Shinichi Sato