Increased levels of (class switched) memory B cells in peripheral blood of current smokers

Brandsma, C-A., Hylkema, M. N., Geerlings, M., van Geffen, W. H., Postma, D. S., Timens, W. & Kerstjens, H. A. M., 12-Nov-2009, In : Respiratory Research. 10, 11 p., 108.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

There is increasing evidence that a specific immune response contributes to the pathogenesis of COPD. B-cell follicles are present in lung tissue and increased anti-elastin titers have been found in plasma of COPD patients. Additionally, regulatory T cells (Tregs) have been implicated in its pathogenesis as they control immunological reactions. We hypothesize that the specific immune response in COPD is smoke induced, either by a direct effect of smoking or as a result of smoke-induced lung tissue destruction (i.e. formation of neo-epitopes or auto antigens). Furthermore, we propose that Tregs are involved in the suppression of this smoke-induced specific immune response.

The presence of B cells, memory B cells and Tregs was assessed by flow cytometry in peripheral blood of 20 COPD patients and 29 healthy individuals and related to their current smoking status.

COPD patients had lower (memory) B-cell percentages and higher Treg percentages in peripheral blood than healthy individuals, with a significant negative correlation between these cells. Interestingly, current smokers had higher percentages of (class-switched) memory B cells than ex-smokers and never smokers, irrespective of COPD.

This increase in (class-switched) memory B cells in current smokers is intriguing and suggests that smoke-induced neo-antigens may be constantly induced in the lung. The negative correlation between B cells and Tregs in blood is in line with previously published observations that Tregs can suppress B cells. Future studies focusing on the presence of these (class switched) memory B cells in the lung, their antigen specificity and their interaction with Tregs are necessary to further elucidate the specific B-cell response in COPD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108
Number of pages11
JournalRespiratory Research
Publication statusPublished - 12-Nov-2009



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