B cells have multiple roles in immune activation and inflammation separate from their capacity to produce antibodies. B cell depletion is currently under intense investigation as a therapeutic strategy for autoimmune diseases. The TNF family members B cell-activating factor of the TNF family (BAFF) and its homolog A proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) are B cell survival and differentiation factors and are therefore rational therapeutic targets. We compared the effects of BAFF receptor-Ig, which blocks only BAFF, with those of transmembrane activator and calcium modulator ligand interactor-Ig, which blocks both BAFF and APRIL, in a murine SLE model. Both reagents prolonged the life of NZB/W F1 mice when given either before or after disease onset. Many immunologic effects of the 2 reagents were similar, including B cell and B cell subset depletion and prevention of the progressive T cell activation and dendritic cell accumulation that occurs with age in NZB/W mice without substantial effects on the emergence of the IgG anti-double-stranded DNA response. Furthermore, both reagents inhibited the T cell-independent marginal zone B cell response to particulate antigen delivered i.v., but not the B1 B cell response to the same antigen delivered i.p. In contrast, blockade of both BAFF and APRIL, but not blockade of BAFF alone, reduced the serum levels of IgM antibodies, decreased the frequency of plasma cells in the spleen, and inhibited the IgM response to a T cell-dependent antigen. The differences between selective and nonselective BAFF blockade are relevant to the choice of a BAFF blocking agent for the treatment of autoimmune and malignant diseases.
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