Objective: Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) transmits crucial survival signals from the B cell receptor (BCR) in B cells. Pharmacologic BTK inhibition effectively diminishes disease symptoms in mouse models of autoimmunity; conversely, transgenic BTK overexpression induces systemic autoimmunity in mice. We undertook this study to investigate BTK expression and activity in human B cells in the context of autoimmune disease. Methods: Using intracellular flow cytometry, we quantified BTK expression and phosphorylation in subsets of peripheral blood B cells from 30 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), 26 patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS), and matched healthy controls. Results: In circulating B cells, BTK protein expression levels correlated with BTK phosphorylation. BTK expression was up-regulated upon BCR stimulation in vitro and was significantly higher in CD27+ memory B cells than in CD27-IgD+ naive B cells. Importantly, BTK protein and phospho-BTK were significantly increased in B cells from anti-citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA)-positive RA patients but not in B cells from ACPA-negative RA patients. BTK was increased both in naive B cells and in memory B cells and correlated with frequencies of circulating CCR6+ Th17 cells. Likewise, BTK protein was increased in B cells from a major fraction of patients with primary SS and correlated with serum rheumatoid factor levels and parotid gland T cell infiltration. Interestingly, targeting T cell activation in patients with primary SS using the CTLA-4Ig fusion protein abatacept restored BTK protein expression in B cells to normal levels. Conclusion: These data indicate that autoimmune disease in humans is characterized by enhanced BTK activity, which is linked not only to autoantibody formation but also to T cell activity.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/art.40059, hdl.handle.net/1765/99941
Journal Arthritis and Rheumatology
Corneth, O.B.J, Verstappen, G.M.P. (Gwenny M. P.), Paulissen, S.M.J, de Bruijn, M.J.W, Rip, J, Lukkes, M, … Hendriks, R.W. (2017). Enhanced Bruton's Tyrosine Kinase Activity in Peripheral Blood B Lymphocytes From Patients With Autoimmune Disease. Arthritis and Rheumatology. doi:10.1002/art.40059