FcRL4 expression identifies a pro-inflammatory B cell subset in viremic HIV-infected subjects

Basile Siewe, Allison J. Nipper, Haewon Sohn, Jack T. Stapleton, Alan Landay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In autoimmune diseases, toll-like receptor (TLR)-stimulated pro-inflammatory IL-6-secreting B cells exert pathogenic roles. Similarly, B cell Fc receptor-like 4 (FcRL4) expression amplifies TLR stimulation, and in rheumatoid arthritis patients, FcRL4 expression identifies a pro-inflammatory B cell subset. B cells from HIV-infected subjects also express heightened levels of FcRL4 and secrete high levels of IL-6: a critical mediator of HIV disease progression. In this study, we sought to determine if FcRL4 identifies a pro-inflammatory B cell subset in HIV-infected subjects and further elucidate the mechanisms underlying FcRL4 amplification of TLR stimulation. We determine that tissue-like memory B cells express the highest endogenous levels of FcRL4 positively correlating with IL-6 expression (p = 0.0022, r = 0.8667), but activated memory B cells exhibit the highest frequency of FcRL4hiIL-6hi cells. FcRL4hi B cells exhibit an activated TLR-signaling pathway identified by elevated phosphorylation levels of: pERK (p = 0.0373), p38 (p = 0.0337), p65 (p = 0.1097), and cJUN (p = 0.0239), concomitant with significantly elevated expression of the TLR-signaling modulator hematopoietic cell kinase (HcK, p = 0.0414). Compared to FcRL4neg B cells from healthy controls, TLR9-stimulated FcRL4pos B cells express significantly higher levels of lL-6 (p = 0.0179). Further, TLR9-stimulated B cells also upregulate the expression of FcRL4 (p = 0.0415) and HcK (p = 0.0386). In B-cell lines, siRNA-mediated HcK knockdown downmodulates TLR9-induced FcRL4-mediated activation quantified by CD23 upregulation (p = 0.0553). We present data suggesting that, in viremic HIV-infected individuals, FcRL4 expression identifies unique IL-6 producing pro-inflammatory B-cell subsets. Further, TLR stimulation likely modulates FcRL4 expression and FcRL4 expression is associated with Hck, potentially enhancing the activation of TLR-signaling associated transcription factors. Pathogenic B-cells have been identified in other disease settings, and this study represents a novel report describing a pro-inflammatory B cell subset in HIV-infected patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1339
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 20 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • B cells
  • Fc receptor-like 4
  • HIV
  • IL-6
  • Pro-inflammatory cytokine
  • Viremic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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