OBJECTIVE: B-cells are present in the inflamed arteries of giant cell arteritis (GCA) patients and a disturbed B-cell homeostasis is reported in peripheral blood of both GCA and the overlapping disease polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). In this study, we aimed to investigate chemokine-chemokine receptor axes governing the migration of B-cells in GCA and PMR.
METHODS: We performed Luminex screening assay for serum levels of B-cell related chemokines in treatment-naïve GCA (n = 41), PMR (n = 31) and age- and sex matched healthy controls (HC, n = 34). Expression of chemokine receptors on circulating B-cell subsets were investigated by flow cytometry. Immunohistochemistry was performed on GCA temporal artery (n = 14) and aorta (n = 10) and on atherosclerosis aorta (n = 10) tissue.
RESULTS: The chemokines CXCL9 and CXCL13 were significantly increased in the circulation of treatment-naïve GCA and PMR patients. CXCL13 increased even further after three months of glucocorticoid treatment. At baseline CXCL13 correlated with disease activity markers. Peripheral CXCR3+ and CXCR5+ switched memory B-cells were significantly reduced in both patient groups and correlated inversely with their complementary chemokines CXCL9 and CXCL13. At the arterial lesions in GCA, CXCR3+ and CXCR5+ B-cells were observed in areas with high CXCL9 and CXCL13 expression.
CONCLUSION: Changes in systemic and local chemokine and chemokine receptor pathways related to B-cell migration were observed in GCA and PMR mainly in the CXCL9-CXCR3 and CXCL13-CXCR5 axes. These changes can contribute to homing and organization of B-cells in the vessel wall and provide further evidence for an active involvement of B-cells in GCA and PMR.