Increased killer B cells in chronic HCV infection may lead to autoimmunity and increased viral load

N. Eiza, E. Zuckerman, M. Carlebach, T. Rainis, Y. Goldberg, Z. Vadasz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regulatory B (Breg) cells are characterized by various membrane markers and the secretion of different inhibitory cytokines. A new subset of Breg cells was identified as CD5hi Fas-ligand (FasL)hi. Their main reported role is to suppress anti-viral and anti-tumour immune responses, and, hence they have been dubbed ‘killer’ B cells. In this study, we aim to assess the role of these cells in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, and determine if they contribute to the increased viral load and persistence of HCV and its related autoimmunity. (i) FasL expression on CD5hi B cells is increased significantly in HCV-infected patients compared to healthy individuals [28·06 ± 6·71 mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) ± standard error of the mean (s.e.m.), median = 27·9 versus 10·87 ± 3·97 MFI ± s.e.m., median = 10·3, respectively, P < 0·0001]. (ii) Killer B cells from HCV patients increased autologous CD4+ T cell apoptosis compared to the apoptosis in healthy individuals [39·17% ± 7·18% mean ± standard deviation (s.d.), median = 39·6 versus 25·92 ± 8·65%, mean ± s.d., median = 24·1%, P < 0·0001, respectively]. A similar increase was observed in CD8+ T cell apoptosis (54·67 ± 15·49% mean ± s.d., median = 57·3 versus 21·07% ± 7·4%, mean ± s.d., median = 20%, P = 0·0006, respectively). (iii) By neutralizing FasL with monoclonal anti-FasL antibodies, we have shown that the induction of apoptosis by killer B cells is FasL-dependent. (iv) Increased expression of FasL on CD5hi B cells is correlated positively with an increased viral load and the presence of anti-nuclear antibodies and rheumatoid factor in HCV. This is the first study in which killer B cells have been suggested to play a pathogenic role in HCV. They seem to be involved in HCV's ability to escape efficient immune responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-193
Number of pages11
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 British Society for Immunology


  • B cell
  • autoimmunity
  • viral load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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