Antigen Drives Regulatory B10 Cell Development and Function
B cells mediate immune responses via the secretion of antibody and interactions with other immune cell populations through antigen presentation, costimulation, and cytokine secretion. Although B cells are primarily believed to promote immune responses using the mechanisms described above, some unique regulatory B cell populations that negatively influence inflammation have also been described. Among these is a rare interleukin (IL)-10-producing B lymphocyte subset termed “B10 cells.” B cell-derived IL-10 can inhibit various arms of the immune system, including polarization of Th1/Th2 cell subsets, antigen presentation and cytokine production by monocytes and macrophages, and activation of regulatory T cells. Further studies in numerous autoimmune and inflammatory models of disease have confirmed the ability of B10 cells to negatively regulate inflammation in an IL-10-dependent manner. Although IL-10 is indispensable to the effector functions of B10 cells, how this specialized B cell population is selected in vivo to produce IL-10 is unknown. Some studies have demonstrated a link between B cell receptor (BCR)-derived signals and the acquisition of IL-10 competence. Additionally, whether antigen-BCR interactions are required for B cell IL-10 production during homeostasis as well as active immune responses is a matter of debate. Therefore, the goal of this thesis is to determine the importance of antigen-driven signals during B10 cell development in vivo and during B10 cell-mediated immunosuppression.
Chapter 3 of the dissertation explored the BCR repertoire of spleen and peritoneal cavity B10 cells using single-cell sequencing to lay the foundation for studies to understand the full range of antigens that may be involved in B10 cell selection. In both the spleen and peritoneal cavity B10 cells studied, BCR gene utilization was diverse, and the expressed BCR transcripts were largely unmutated. Thus, B10 cells are likely capable of responding to a wide range of foreign and self-antigens in vivo.
Studies in Chapter 4 determined the predominant antigens that drive B cell IL-10 secretion during homeostasis. A novel in vitro B cell expansion system was used to isolate B cells actively expressing IL-10 in vivo and probe the reactivities of their secreted monoclonal antibodies. B10 cells were found to produce polyreactive antibodies that bound multiple self-antigens. Therefore, in the absence of overarching active immune responses, B cell IL-10 is secreted following interactions with self-antigens.
Chapter 5 of this dissertation investigated whether foreign antigens are capable of driving B10 cell expansion and effector activity during an active immune response. In a model of contact-induced hypersensitivity, in vitro B cell expansion was again used to isolate antigen-specific B10 clones, which were required for optimal immunosuppression.
The studies described in this dissertation shed light on the relative contributions of BCR-derived signals during B10 cell development and effector function. Furthermore, these investigations demonstrate that B10 cells respond to both foreign and self-antigens, which has important implications for the potential manipulation of B10 cells for human therapy. Therefore, B10 cells represent a polyreactive B cell population that provides antigen-specific regulation of immune responses via the production of IL-10.
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