RATIONALE: Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is thought to be triggered by repeated alveolar epithelial cell injury. Current evidence suggests that aberrant immune activation may contribute. However, the role of B-cell activation remains unclear. We determined the phenotype and activation status of B-cell subsets and evaluated the contribution of activated B-cells to the development of lung fibrosis both in humans and in mice. METHODS: B-cells in blood, mediastinal lymph node, and lung single-cell suspensions of IPF patients and healthy controls (HC) were characterized using 14-color flow cytometry. Mice were exposed to bleomycin to provoke pulmonary fibrosis. RESULTS: More IgA+ memory B-cells and plasmablasts were found in blood (n = 27) and lungs (n = 11) of IPF patients compared to HC (n = 21) and control lungs (n = 9). IPF patients had higher levels of autoreactive IgA in plasma, which correlated with an enhanced decline of forced vital capacity (p = 0.002, r = - 0.50). Bruton's tyrosine kinase expression was higher in circulating IPF B-cells compared to HC, indicating enhanced B-cell activation. Bleomycin-exposed mice had increased pulmonary IgA+ germinal center and plasma cell proportions compared to control mice. The degree of lung fibrosis correlated with pulmonary germinal center B-cell proportions (p = 0.010, r = 0.88). CONCLUSION: Our study demonstrates that IPF patients have more circulating activated B-cells and autoreactive IgA, which correlate with disease progression. These B-cell alterations were also observed in the widely used mouse model of experimental pulmonary fibrosis. Autoreactive IgA could be useful as a biomarker for disease progression in IPF.

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doi.org/10.1186/s12931-019-1195-7, hdl.handle.net/1765/120695
Respiratory Research (Print)
Department of Pulmonology

Heukels, P. (Peter), van Hulst, J., van Nimwegen, M., Boorsma, C.E. (Carian E.), Melgert, B.N. (Barbro N.), von der Thusen, J., … Kool, M. (2019). Enhanced Bruton's tyrosine kinase in B-cells and autoreactive IgA in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Respiratory Research (Print), 20(1). doi:10.1186/s12931-019-1195-7