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Early breaches in B cell tolerance are central to type 1 diabetes progression in mouse and man. Conventional BCR transgenic mouse models (VH125.Tg NOD) reveal the power of B cell specificity to drive disease as APCs. However, in conventional fixed IgM models, comprehensive assessment of B cell development is limited. To provide more accurate insight into the developmental and functional fates of anti-insulin B cells, we generated a new NOD model (V125NOD) in which anti-insulin VDJH125 is targeted to the IgH chain locus to generate a small (1-2%) population of class switch-competent insulin-binding B cells. Tracking of this rare population in a polyclonal repertoire reveals that anti-insulin B cells are preferentially skewed into marginal zone and late transitional subsets known to have increased sensitivity to proinflammatory signals. Additionally, IL-10 production, characteristic of regulatory B cell subsets, is increased. In contrast to conventional models, class switch-competent anti-insulin B cells proliferate normally in response to mitogenic stimuli but remain functionally silent for insulin autoantibody production. Diabetes development is accelerated, which demonstrates the power of anti-insulin B cells to exacerbate disease without differentiation into Ab-forming or plasma cells. Autoreactive T cell responses in V125NOD mice are not restricted to insulin autoantigens, as evidenced by increased IFN-γ production to a broad array of diabetes-associated epitopes. Together, these results independently validate the pathogenic role of anti-insulin B cells in type 1 diabetes, underscore their diverse developmental fates, and demonstrate the pathologic potential of coupling a critical β cell specificity to predominantly proinflammatory Ag-presenting B cell subsets.
Copyright © 2018 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.
Autoreactive B lymphocytes that escape central tolerance and mature in the periphery are a liability for developing autoimmunity. IgG insulin autoantibodies that predict type 1 diabetes and complicate insulin therapies indicate that mechanisms for tolerance to insulin are flawed. To examine peripheral tolerance in anti-insulin B cells, we generated C57BL/6 mice that harbor anti-insulin VDJH-125 site directed to the native IgH locus (VH125(SD)). Class switch-competent anti-insulin B cells fail to produce IgG Abs following T cell-dependent immunization of VH125(SD) mice with heterologous insulin, and they exhibit markedly impaired proliferation to anti-CD40 plus insulin in vitro. In contrast, costimulation with LPS plus insulin drives robust anti-insulin B cell proliferation. Furthermore, VH125(SD) mice produce both IgM and IgG2a anti-insulin Abs following immunization with insulin conjugated to type 1 T cell-independent Brucella abortus ring test Ag (BRT). Anti-insulin B cells undergo clonal expansion in vivo and emerge as IgM(+) and IgM(-) GL7(+)Fas(+) germinal center (GC) B cells following immunization with insulin-BRT, but not BRT alone. Analysis of Igκ genes in VH125(SD) mice immunized with insulin-BRT reveals that anti-insulin Vκ from the preimmune repertoire is selected into GCs. These data demonstrate that class switch-competent anti-insulin B cells remain functionally silent in T cell-dependent immune responses, yet these B cells are vulnerable to reversal of anergy following combined BCR/TLR engagement that promotes Ag-specific GC responses and Ab production. Environmental factors that lead to infection and inflammation could play a critical yet underappreciated role in driving loss of tolerance and promoting autoimmune disease.
Copyright © 2015 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.
NFAT transcription factors play critical roles in both the activation and repression of T and B lymphocyte responses. To understand the role of NFATc2 (NFAT1) in the maintenance of tolerance for anti-insulin B cells, functionally inactive NFATc2 (NFATc2(-/-)) was introduced into C57BL/6 mice that harbor anergic anti-insulin 125Tg B cells. The production and peripheral maturation of anti-insulin B cells into follicular and marginal zone subsets was not altered by the absence of functional NFATc2. Surface B cell receptor expression levels, important for tonic signaling and altered by anergy, were not altered in any spleen B cell subset. The levels of anti-insulin antibodies were not different in 125Tg/B6/NFATc2(-/-) mice and the anti-insulin response remained silenced following T cell dependent immunization. However, studies addressing in vitro proliferation reveal the anergic state of 125Tg B cells is relieved in 125Tg/B6/NFATc2(-/-) B cells in response to BCR stimulation. In contrast, anergy is not released in 125Tg/B6/NFATc2(-/-) B cells following stimulation with anti-CD40. The relief of anergy to BCR stimulation in 125Tg/B6/NFATc2(-/-) B cells is associated with increased transcription of both NFATc1 and NFATc3 while expression of these NFATs does not change in anti-IgM stimulated 125Tg/B6/NFATc2(+/+) B cells. The data suggest that NFATc2 plays a subtle and selective role in maintaining anergy for BCR stimulation by repressing the transcription of other NFAT family members.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Autoreactive B lymphocytes are essential for the development of T cell-mediated type 1 diabetes (T1D). Cytoplasmic Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) is a key component of B cell signaling, and its deletion in T1D-prone NOD mice significantly reduces diabetes. However, the role of BTK in the survival and function of autoreactive B cells is not clear. To evaluate the contributions of BTK, we used mice in which B cells express an anti-insulin BCR (125Tg) and promote T1D, despite being anergic. Crossing Btk deficiency onto 125Tg mice reveals that, in contrast to immature B cells, mature anti-insulin B cells are exquisitely dependent upon BTK, because their numbers are reduced by 95%. BTK kinase domain inhibition reproduces this effect in mature anti-insulin B cells, with less impact at transitional stages. The increased dependence of anti-insulin B cells on BTK became particularly evident in an Igκ locus site-directed model, in which 50% of B cells edit their BCRs to noninsulin specificities; Btk deficiency preferentially depletes insulin binders from the follicular and marginal zone B cell subsets. The persistent few Btk-deficient anti-insulin B cells remain competent to internalize Ag and invade pancreatic islets. As such, loss of BTK does not significantly reduce diabetes incidence in 125Tg/NOD mice as it does in NOD mice with a normal B cell repertoire. Thus, BTK targeting may not impair autoreactive anti-insulin B cell function, yet it may provide protection in an endogenous repertoire by decreasing the relative availability of mature autoreactive B cells.
Autoreactive B lymphocytes that are not culled by central tolerance in the bone marrow frequently enter the peripheral repertoire in a state of functional impairment, termed anergy. These cells are recognized as a liability for autoimmunity, but their contribution to disease is not well understood. Insulin-specific 125Tg B cells support T cell-mediated type 1 diabetes in NOD mice, despite being anergic to B cell mitogens and T cell-dependent immunization. Using this model, the potential of anergic, autoreactive B cells to present Ag and activate T cells was investigated. The data show that 1) insulin is captured and rapidly internalized by 125Tg BCRs, 2) these Ag-exposed B cells are competent to activate both experienced and naive CD4(+) T cells, 3) anergic 125Tg B cells are more efficient than naive B cells at activating T cells when Ag is limiting, and 4) 125Tg B cells are competent to generate low-affinity insulin B chain epitopes necessary for activation of diabetogenic anti-insulin BDC12-4.1 T cells, indicating the pathological relevance of anergic B cells in type 1 diabetes. Thus, phenotypically tolerant B cells that are retained in the repertoire may promote autoimmunity by driving activation and expansion of autoaggressive T cells via Ag presentation.
Type 1 diabetes results from T cell-mediated destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. Although elimination of B lymphocytes has proven successful at preventing disease, modulation of B cell function as a means to prevent type 1 diabetes has not been investigated. The development, fate, and function of B lymphocytes depend upon BCR signaling, which is mediated in part by Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK). When introduced into NOD mice, btk deficiency only modestly reduces B cell numbers, but dramatically protects against diabetes. In NOD, btk deficiency mirrors changes in B cell subsets seen in other strains, but also improves B cell-related tolerance, as indicated by failure to generate insulin autoantibodies. Introduction of an anti-insulin BCR H chain transgene restores diabetes in btk-deficient NOD mice, indicating that btk-deficient B cells are functionally capable of promoting autoimmune diabetes if they have a critical autoimmune specificity. This suggests that the disease-protective effect of btk deficiency may reflect a lack of autoreactive specificities in the B cell repertoire. Thus, signaling via BTK can be modulated to improve B cell tolerance, and prevent T cell-mediated autoimmune diabetes.
Mechanisms of B cell tolerance act during development in the bone marrow and periphery to eliminate or restrict autoreactive clones to prevent autoimmune disease. B cells in the spleens of mice that harbor anti-insulin BCR transgenes (125Tg) are maintained in a functionally silenced or anergic state by endogenous hormone, but it is not clear when and where anergy is induced. An in vitro bone marrow culture system was therefore used to probe whether small protein hormones, a critical class of autoantigens, could interact with the BCR to induce anergy early during B cell development. Upon exposure to insulin, anti-insulin (125Tg) immature B cells show similar hallmarks of anergy as those observed in mature splenic B cells. These include BCR down-regulation, impaired proliferative responses to anti-CD40, and diminished calcium mobilization upon stimulation with BCR-dependent and independent stimuli. Inhibition of calcineurin also results in reduced immature B cell proliferation in a similar manner, suggesting a potential mechanism through which reduced intracellular calcium mobilization may be altering cellular proliferation. Signs of impairment appear after short-term exposure to insulin, which are reversible upon Ag withdrawal. This suggests that a high degree of functional plasticity is maintained at this stage and that constant Ag engagement is required to maintain functional inactivation. These findings indicate that tolerance observed in mature, splenic 125Tg B cells is initiated by insulin in the developing B cell compartment and thus highlight an important therapeutic window for the prevention of insulin autoimmunity.
The highly selective nature of organ-specific autoimmune disease is consistent with a critical role for adaptive immune responses against specific autoantigens. In type 1 diabetes mellitus, autoantibodies to insulin are important markers of the disease process in humans and nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice; however, the Ag-specific receptors responsible for these autoantibodies are obscured by the polyclonal repertoire. NOD mice that harbor an anti-insulin transgene (Tg) (V(H)125Tg/NOD) circumvent this problem by generating a tractable population of insulin-binding B cells. The nucleotide structure and genetic origin of the endogenous kappa L chain (Vkappa or IgL) repertoire that pairs with the V(H)125Tg were analyzed. In contrast to oligoclonal expansion observed in systemic autoimmune disease models, insulin-binding B cells from V(H)125Tg/NOD mice use specific Vkappa genes that are clonally independent and germline encoded. When compared with homologous IgL genes from nonautoimmune strains, Vkappa genes from NOD mice are polymorphic. Analysis of the most frequently expressed Vkappa1 and Vkappa9 genes indicates these are shared with lupus-prone New Zealand Black/BINJ mice (e.g., Vkappa1-110*02 and 9-124) and suggests that NOD mice use the infrequent b haplotype. These findings show that a diverse repertoire of anti-insulin B cells is part of the autoimmune process in NOD mice and structural or regulatory elements within the kappa locus may be shared with a systemic autoimmune disease.
Loss of tolerance is considered to be an early event that is essential for the development of autoimmune disease. In contrast to this expectation, autoimmune (type 1) diabetes develops in NOD mice that harbor an anti-insulin Ig transgene (125Tg), even though anti-insulin B cells are tolerant. Tolerance is maintained in a similar manner in both normal C57BL/6 and autoimmune NOD mice, as evidenced by B cell anergy to stimulation through their Ag receptor (anti-IgM), TLR4 (LPS), and CD40 (anti-CD40). Unlike B cells in other models of tolerance, anergic 125Tg B cells are not arrested in development, and they enter mature subsets of follicular and marginal zone B cells. In addition, 125Tg B cells remain competent to increase CD86 expression in response to both T cell-dependent (anti-CD40) and T cell-independent (anti-IgM or LPS) signals. Thus, for anti-insulin B cells, tolerance is characterized by defective B cell proliferation uncoupled from signals that promote maturation and costimulator function. In diabetes-prone NOD mice, anti-insulin B cells in this novel state of tolerance provide the essential B cell contribution required for autoimmune beta cell destruction. These findings suggest that the degree of functional impairment, rather than an overt breach of tolerance, is a critical feature that governs B cell contribution to T cell-mediated autoimmune disease.
Analysis of spontaneous hybridomas generated from nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice indicates that the natural autoantibody repertoire of NOD mice is highly active compared with C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice. This property of increased B cell activity is present early in life (4 wk) and persists in older mice of both sexes. Even when selected for binding to a prototypic beta cell Ag, such as insulin, NOD mAb have characteristics of natural autoantibodies that include low avidity and broad specificity for multiple Ags. Analyses of the variable region of Ig H chain (V(H)) and variable region kappa L chain genes expressed by six insulin binding mAb show that V gene segments are often germline encoded and are identical with those used by autoantibodies, especially anti-dsDNA, from systemic autoimmune disease in MRL, NZB/W, and motheaten mice. V(H) genes used by four mAb are derived from the large J558 family and two mAb use V(H)7183 and V(H)Q52 genes. The third complementarity-determining region of Ig H chain of these mAb have limited N segment diversity, and some mAb contain DNA segments indicative of gene replacement. Genetic abnormalities in the regulation of self-reactive B cells may be a feature that is shared between NOD and conventional systemic autoimmune disorders. In NOD, the large pool of self-reactive B cells may fuel autoimmune beta cell destruction by facilitating T-B cell interactions, as evidenced by the identification of one mAb that has undergone Ag-driven somatic hypermutation.