Proportions of B-cell subsets are altered in incomplete systemic lupus erythematosus and correlate with interferon score and IgG levels.

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Incomplete SLE (iSLE) patients display symptoms typical for SLE but have insufficient criteria to fulfil the diagnosis. Biomarkers are needed to identify iSLE patients that will progress to SLE. IFN type I activation, B-cell-activating factor (BAFF) and B-cell subset distortions play an important role in the pathogenesis of SLE. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate whether B-cell subsets are altered in iSLE patients, and whether these alterations correlate with IFN scores and BAFF levels.iSLE patients (n = 34), SLE patients (n = 41) with quiescent disease (SLEDAI ≤4) and healthy controls (n = 22) were included. Proportions of B-cell subsets were measured with flow cytometry, IFN scores with RT-PCR and BAFF levels with ELISA.Proportions of age-associated B-cells were elevated in iSLE patients compared with healthy controls and correlated with IgG levels. In iSLE patients, IFN scores and BAFF levels were significantly increased compared with healthy controls. Also, IFN scores correlated with proportions of switched memory B-cells, plasma cells and IgG levels, and correlated negatively with complement levels in iSLE patients.In this cross-sectional study, distortions in B-cell subsets were observed in iSLE patients and were correlated with IFN scores and IgG levels. Since these factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of SLE, iSLE patients with these distortions, high IFN scores, and high levels of IgG and BAFF may be at risk for progression to SLE.

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