Depletion of B cells in rheumatoid arthritis is therapeutically efficacious. Yet, the mechanism by which B cells participate in the inflammatory process is unclear. We previously demonstrated that Ag-specific B cells have two important functions in the development of arthritis in a murine model of rheumatoid arthritis, proteoglycan (PG)-induced arthritis (PGIA). PG-specific B cells function as autoantibody-producing cells and as APCs that activate PG-specific T cells. Moreover, the costimulatory molecule CD86 is up-regulated on PG-specific B cells in response to stimulation with PG. To address the requirement for CD80/CD86 expression on B cells in the development of PGIA, we generated mixed bone marrow chimeras in which CD80/CD86 is specifically deleted on B cells and not on other APC populations. Chimeras with a specific deficiency in CD80/CD86 expression on B cells are resistant to the induction of PGIA. The concentration of PG-specific autoantibody is similar in mice sufficient or deficient for CD80/86-expressing B cells, which indicates that resistance to PGIA is not due to the suppression of PG-specific autoantibody production. CD80/86-deficient B cells failed to effectively activate PG-specific autoreactive T cells as indicated by the failure of T cells from PG-immunized CD80/86-deficient B cell chimeras to transfer arthritis into SCID mice. In vitro secondary recall responses to PG are also dependent on CD80/86-expressing B cells. These results demonstrate that a CD80/86:CD28 costimulatory interaction between B cells and T cells is required for autoreactive T cell activation and the induction of arthritis but not for B cell autoantibody production.
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