CFTR regulates B cell activation and lymphoid follicle development

Francesca Polverino, Bao Lu, Joselyn Rojas Quintero, Sara O. Vargas, Avignat S. Patel, Caroline A. Owen, Norma P. Gerard, Craig Gerard, Manuela Cernadas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disorder caused by mutations in the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene that promotes persistent lung infection and inflammation and progressive loss of lung function. Patients with CF have increased lung lymphoid follicles (LFs) and B cell-activating factor of tumor necrosis factor family (BAFF) that regulates B cell survival and maturation. A direct role for CFTR in B cell activation and disease pathogenesis in CF remains unclear. Methods: The number of LFs, BAFF+, TLR4+ and proliferation marker Ki67+ B cells in lung explants or resections from subjects with CF and normal controls was quantified by immunostaining. The role of CFTR in B cell activation and LF development was then examined in two independent cohorts of uninfected CFTR-deficient mice (Cftr -/- ) and wild type controls. The number of lung LFs, B cells and BAFF+, CXCR4+, immunoglobulin G+ B cells was examined by immunostaining. Lung and splenocyte B cell activation marker and major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC class II) expression was quantified by flow cytometry. Inflammatory cytokine levels were measured in supernatants from isolated B cells from Cftr -/- and wild type mice stimulated in vitro with Pseudomonas aeruginosa lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Results: There was a significant increase in well-formed LFs in subjects with CF compared to normal controls. Increased B cell activation and proliferation was observed in lung LFs from CF subjects as was quantified by a significant increase in B cell BAFF, TLR4 and Ki67 expression. Uninfected Cftr -/- mice had increased lung LFs and BAFF+ and CXCR4+ B cells compared to wild type controls. Lung B cells isolated from uninfected Cftr -/- mice demonstrated increased MHC class II expression. In vitro, isolated B cells from Cftr -/- mice produced increased IL-6 when stimulated with LPS compared to wild type controls. Conclusions: These data support a direct role for CFTR in B cell activation, proliferation and inflammatory cytokine production that promotes lung LF follicle development in cystic fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number133
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • B lymphocyte
  • BAFF
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Lymphoid follicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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