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Intrathecal somatic hypermutation of IgM in multiple sclerosis and neuroinflammation

Brain. 2014 Jul 23. pii: awu205. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Beltrán E, Obermeier B, Moser M, Coret F, Simó-Castelló M, Boscá I, Pérez-Miralles F, Villar LM, Senel M, Tumani H, Hohlfeld R, Casanova B, Dornmair K.
Publication Date: 2014


Intrathecal oligoclonal bands of the cerebrospinal fluid are considered the most important immunological biomarkers of multiple sclerosis. They typically consist of clonally expanded IgG antibodies that underwent affinity maturation during sustained stimulation by largely unknown antigens. In addition, ∼40% of patients with multiple sclerosis have oligoclonal bands that consist of expanded IgM antibodies. We investigated the molecular composition of IgM- and IgG-chains from cerebrospinal fluid of 12 patients with multiple sclerosis, seven patients with other neurological diseases, and eight healthy control subjects by high-throughput deep-sequencing and single-cell PCR. Further, we studied the expression of activation-induced cytidine deaminase, the key enzyme for affinity maturation of antibodies, in cerebrospinal fluid samples of 16 patients. From the cerebrospinal fluid of two multiple sclerosis patients we isolated single B cells and investigated the co-expression of antibody chains with activation-induced cytidine deaminase. In striking contrast to IgM-chains from peripheral blood, IgM-chains from cerebrospinal fluid of patients with multiple sclerosis or neuroborreliosis showed a high degree of somatic hypermutation. We found a high content of mutations that caused amino acid exchanges as compared to silent mutations. In addition, more mutations were found in the complementarity determining regions of the IgM-chains, which interact with yet unknown antigens, as compared to framework regions. Both observations provide evidence for antigen-driven affinity maturation. Furthermore, single B cells from the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with multiple sclerosis co-expressed somatically hypermutated IgM-chains and activation-induced cytidine deaminase, an enzyme that is crucial for somatic hypermutation and class switch recombination of antibodies and is normally expressed during activation of B cells in germinal centres. Clonal tracking of particular IgM+ B cells allowed us to relate unmutated ancestor clones in blood to hypermutated offspring clones in CSF. Unexpectedly, however, we found no evidence for intrathecal isotype switching from IgM to IgG. Our data suggest that the intrathecal milieu sustains a germinal centre-like reaction with clonal expansion and extensive accumulation of somatic hypermutation in IgM-producing B cells.

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