Type 1 diabetes (T1D) patients show abnormalities in early B cell tolerance checkpoints, resulting in the accumulation of large numbers of autoreactive B cells in their blood. Treatment with rituximab, an anti-CD20 mAb that depletes B cells, has been shown to preserve β cell function in T1D patients and improve other autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. However, it remains largely unknown how anti–B cell therapy thwarts autoimmunity in these pathologies. Here, we analyzed the reactivity of Abs expressed by single, mature naive B cells from 4 patients with T1D before and 52 weeks after treatment to determine whether rituximab resets early B cell tolerance checkpoints. We found that anti–B cell therapy did not alter the frequencies of autoreactive and polyreactive B cells, which remained elevated in the blood of all patients after rituximab treatment. Moreover, the limited proliferative history of autoreactive B cells after treatment revealed that these clones were newly generated B cells and not self-reactive B cells that had escaped depletion and repopulated the periphery through homeostatic expansion. We conclude that anti–B cell therapy may provide a temporary dampening of autoimmune processes through B cell depletion. However, repletion with autoreactive B cells may explain the relapse that occurs in many autoimmune patients after anti–B cell therapy.
Nicolas Chamberlain, Christopher Massad, Tyler Oe, Tineke Cantaert, Kevan C. Herold, Eric Meffre, the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet Pathway to Prevention Study Group