Alloimmune responses driven by donor-specific antibodies (DSAs) can lead to antibody-mediated rejection (ABMR) in organ transplantation. Yet, the cellular states underlying alloreactive B cell responses and the molecular components controlling them remain unclear. Using high dimensional profiling of B cells in a cohort of 96 kidney transplant recipients, we identified expanded numbers of CD27+CD21- activated memory (AM) B cells that expressed the transcription factor T-bet in patients who developed DSAs and progressed to ABMR. Notably, AM cells were less frequent in DSA+ABMR- patients and at baseline levels in DSA- patients. RNA-seq analysis of AM cells in patients undergoing ABMR revealed these cells to be poised for plasma cell differentiation and to express restricted IGHV sequences reflective of clonal expansion. In addition to T-bet, AM cells manifested elevated expression of IRF4 and Blimp1, and upon co-culture with autologous T follicular helper cells, differentiated into DSA-producing plasma cells in an IL-21 dependent manner. The frequency of AM cells was correlated with the timing and severity of ABMR manifestations. Importantly, T-bet+ AM cells were detected within kidney allografts along with their restricted IGHV sequences. This study delineates a pivotal role for AM cells in promoting humoral responses and ABMR in organ transplantation and highlights them as important therapeutic targets.
Kevin Louis, Elodie Bailly, Camila Macedo, Louis Lau, Bala Ramaswami, Alexander Chang, Uma Chandran, Douglas Landsittel, Xinyan Gu, Geetha Chalasani, Adriana Zeevi, Parmjeet Randhawa, Harinder Singh, Carmen Lefaucheur, Diana Metes