To determine the role of CD154-CD40 interactions in the B cell overactivity exhibited by patients with active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), CD19+ peripheral B cells were examined before and after treatment with humanized anti-CD154 mAb (BG9588, 5c8). Before treatment, SLE patients manifested activated B cells that expressed CD154, CD69, CD38, CD5, and CD27. Cells expressing CD38, CD5, or CD27 disappeared from the periphery during treatment with anti-CD154 mAb, and cells expressing CD69 and CD154 disappeared from the periphery during the post-treatment period. Before treatment, active-SLE patients had circulating CD38bright Ig-secreting cells that were not found in normal individuals. Disappearance of this plasma cell subset during treatment was associated with decreases in anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) Ab levels, proteinuria, and SLE disease activity index. Consistent with this finding, peripheral B cells cultured in vitro spontaneously proliferated and secreted Ig in a manner that was inhibited by anti-CD154 mAb. Finally, the CD38+/++IgD+, CD38+++, and CD38+IgD– B cell subsets present in the peripheral blood also disappeared following treatment with humanized anti-CD154. Together, these results indicate that patients with active lupus nephritis exhibit abnormalities in the peripheral B cell compartment that are consistent with intensive germinal center activity, are driven via CD154-CD40 interactions, and may reflect or contribute to the propensity of these patients to produce autoantibodies.
Amrie C. Grammer, Rebecca Slota, Randy Fischer, Hanan Gur, Hermann Girschick, Cheryl Yarboro, Gabor G. Illei, Peter E. Lipsky