Chronic immune activation in HIV-infected individuals leads to accumulation of exhausted tissue-like memory B cells. Exhausted lymphocytes display increased expression of multiple inhibitory receptors, which may contribute to the inefficiency of HIV-specific antibody responses. Here, we show that downregulation of B cell inhibitory receptors in primary human B cells led to increased tissue-like memory B cell proliferation and responsiveness against HIV. In human B cells, siRNA knockdown of 9 known and putative B cell inhibitory receptors led to enhanced B cell receptor–mediated (BCR-mediated) proliferation of tissue-like memory but not other B cell subpopulations. The strongest effects were observed with the putative inhibitory receptors Fc receptor–like–4 (FCRL4) and sialic acid–binding Ig-like lectin 6 (Siglec-6). Inhibitory receptor downregulation also led to increased levels of HIV-specific antibody-secreting cells and B cell–associated chemokines and cytokines. The absence of known ligands for FCRL4 and Siglec-6 suggests these receptors may regulate BCR signaling through their own constitutive or tonic signaling. Furthermore, the extent of FCLR4 knockdown effects on BCR-mediated proliferation varied depending on the costimulatory ligand, suggesting that inhibitory receptors may engage specific pathways in inhibiting B cell proliferation. These findings on HIV-associated B cell exhaustion define potential targets for reversing the deleterious effect of inhibitory receptors on immune responses against persistent viral infections.
Lela Kardava, Susan Moir, Wei Wang, Jason Ho, Clarisa M. Buckner, Jacqueline G. Posada, Marie A. O’Shea, Gregg Roby, Jenny Chen, Hae Won Sohn, Tae-Wook Chun, Susan K. Pierce, Anthony S. Fauci