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Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 215308, 18 pages
Review Article

B Cells in Autoimmune Diseases

Department of Medicine, University of Washington, SLU-276, 850 Republican, Seattle, WA 98109, USA

Received 2 September 2012; Accepted 23 September 2012

Academic Editors: B.-L. Chiang and R. Klein

Copyright © 2012 Christiane S. Hampe. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The role of B cells in autoimmune diseases involves different cellular functions, including the well-established secretion of autoantibodies, autoantigen presentation and ensuing reciprocal interactions with T cells, secretion of inflammatory cytokines, and the generation of ectopic germinal centers. Through these mechanisms B cells are involved both in autoimmune diseases that are traditionally viewed as antibody mediated and also in autoimmune diseases that are commonly classified as T cell mediated. This new understanding of the role of B cells opened up novel therapeutic options for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. This paper includes an overview of the different functions of B cells in autoimmunity; the involvement of B cells in systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes; and current B-cell-based therapeutic treatments. We conclude with a discussion of novel therapies aimed at the selective targeting of pathogenic B cells.