When B cells produce antibodies, self-binding or anti-self antibodies are often formed (red-colored cells). Such anti-self cells must be eliminated, either by cell death or by revising the specificity of the antibody through a process called receptor editing. When successful, receptor editing produces a B cell that is non-self binding (green-colored cell). The Penn study documented lower levels of antibody gene rearrangements in B cells from some patients with autoimmune disease, suggesting a defect in this early B-cell tolerance checkpoint.
Nina Luning Prak, M.D., Ph.D, Univeristy of Pennsylvania School of Medicine