CD11c+ B cells in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and effects of anti-CD20 therapy


OBJECTIVES: B cells are important in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis. It is yet unknown which subsets may be involved, but atypical B cells have been proposed as mediators of autoimmunity. In this study, we investigated differences in B-cell subsets between controls and patients with untreated and anti-CD20-treated multiple sclerosis.

METHODS: We recruited 155 participants for an exploratory cohort comprising peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid, and a validation cohort comprising peripheral blood. Flow cytometry was used to characterize B-cell phenotypes and effector functions of CD11c+ atypical B cells.

RESULTS: There were no differences in circulating B cells between controls and untreated multiple sclerosis. As expected, anti-CD20-treated patients had a markedly lower B-cell count. Of B cells remaining after treatment, we observed higher proportions of CD11c+ B cells and plasmablasts. CD11c+ B cells were expanded in cerebrospinal fluid compared to peripheral blood in controls and untreated multiple sclerosis. Surprisingly, the proportion of CD11c+ cerebrospinal fluid B cells was higher in controls and after anti-CD20 therapy than in untreated multiple sclerosis. Apart from the presence of plasmablasts, the cerebrospinal fluid B-cell composition after anti-CD20 therapy resembled that of controls. CD11c+ B cells demonstrated a high potential for both proinflammatory and regulatory cytokine production.

INTERPRETATION: The study demonstrates that CD11c+ B cells and plasmablasts are less efficiently depleted by anti-CD20 therapy, and that CD11c+ B cells comprise a phenotypically and functionally distinct, albeit heterogenous, B-cell subset with the capacity of exerting both proinflammatory and regulatory functions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Clinical and Translational Neurology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)926-937
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets
  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting/drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis/drug therapy
  • Plasma Cells


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