BackgroundB cells, key cells in allergic inflammation, differentiate in the bone marrow and their precursors include pro-B, pre-B and immature B cells. Eosinophil progenitor cells increase in the lung after allergen exposure. However, the existence and possible role of B cell precursors in the lung during allergic inflammation remains elusive.
MethodsA BALB/c mouse model of allergic airway inflammation was utilized to perform phenotypic and quantification analyses of pro-B and pre-B cells in the lung by flow cytometry. B cell maturation factors IL-7 and B cell-activating factor (BAFF) and their receptors (CD127 and BAFFR, BCMA, TACI, respectively) were also evaluated in the lung and serum. The effect of anti-BAFF treatment was investigated both in vivo (i.p. administration of BAFF-R-Ig fusion protein) and in vitro (colony forming cell assay). Finally, BAFF levels were examined in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) of asthmatic patients and healthy controls.
ResultsPrecursor pro and pre-B cells increase in the lung after allergen exposure, proliferate in the lung tissue in vivo, express markers of chemotaxis (CCR10 and CXCR4) and co-stimulation (CD40, CD86) and are resistant to apoptosis (Bax). Precursor B cells express receptors for BAFF at baseline, while after allergen challenge both their ligand BAFF and the BCMA receptor expression increases in B cell precursors. Blocking BAFFR in the lung in vivo decreases eosinophils and proliferating precursor B cells. Blocking BAFFR in bone marrow cultures in vitro reduces pre-B colony formation units. BAFF is increased in the BAL of severe asthmatics.
ConclusionOur data support the concept of a BAFF-mediated role for B cell precursors in allergic airway inflammation.