Journal of neurotrauma

B-cell maturation antigen, a proliferation-inducing ligand, and B-cell activating factor are candidate mediators of spinal cord injury-induced autoimmunity.

PMID 23088438


Autoimmunity is thought to contribute to poor neurological outcomes after spinal cord injury (SCI). There are few mechanism-based therapies, however, designed to reduce tissue damage and neurotoxicity after SCI because the molecular and cellular bases for SCI-induced autoimmunity are not completely understood. Recent groundbreaking studies in rodents indicate that B cells are responsible for SCI-induced autoimmunity. This novel paradigm, if confirmed in humans, could aid in the design of neuroprotective immunotherapies. The aim of this study was to investigate the molecular signaling pathways and mechanisms by which autoimmunity is induced after SCI, with the goal of identifying potential targets in therapies designed to reduce tissue damage and inflammation in the chronic phase of SCI. To that end, we performed an exploratory microarray analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to identify differentially expressed genes in chronic SCI. We identified a gene network associated with lymphoid tissue structure and development that was composed of 29 distinct molecules and five protein complexes, including two cytokines, a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) and B-cell-activating factor (BAFF), and one receptor, B-cell maturation antigen (BMCA) involved in B cell development, proliferation, activation, and survival. Real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis from ribonucleic acid samples confirmed upregulation of these three genes in SCI. To our knowledge, this is the first report that peripheral blood mononuclear cells produce increased levels of BAFF and APRIL in chronic SCI. This finding provides evidence of systemic regulation of SCI-autoimmunity via APRIL and BAFF mediated activation of B cells through BMCA and points toward these molecules as potential targets of therapies designed to reduce neuroinflammation after SCI.