A distinct plasmablast and naïve B-cell phenotype in primary immune thrombocytopenia.
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Primary immune thrombocytopenia is an autoimmune disorder in which platelet destruction is a consequence of both B- and T-cell dysregulation. Flow cytometry was used to further characterize the B- and T-cell compartments in a cross-sectional cohort of 26 immune thrombocytopenia patients including antiplatelet antibody positive (n=14) and negative (n=12) patients exposed to a range of therapies, and a cohort of matched healthy volunteers. Markers for B-cell activating factor and its receptors, relevant B-cell activation markers (CD95 and CD21) and markers for CD4(+) T-cell subsets, including circulating T-follicular helper-like cells, were included. Our results indicate that an expanded population of CD95(+) naïve B cells correlated with disease activity in immune thrombocytopenia patients regardless of treatment status. A population of CD21-naïve B cells was specifically expanded in autoantibody-positive immune thrombocytopenia patients. Furthermore, the B-cell maturation antigen, a receptor for B-cell activating factor, was consistently and strongly up-regulated on plasmablasts from immune thrombocytopenia patients. These observations have parallels in other autoantibody-mediated diseases and suggest that loss of peripheral tolerance in naïve B cells may be an important component of immune thrombocytopenia pathogenesis. Moreover, the B-cell maturation antigen represents a potential target for plasma cell directed therapies in immune thrombocytopenia.