Multiple paths to loss of anergy and gain of autoimmunity.
ABSTRACT B cells and autoimmunity: cells of the immune system have the capacity to recognize/neutralize a myriad array of disease-causing pathogens, while simultaneously minimizing damage to self tissue. Obvious breakdowns in this ability to distinguish between self and non-self are evident in multiple forms of autoimmune disease, where B and T cells mount damaging attacks on cells and organs. B cells may directly damage tissue by producing pathogenic antibodies that bind self antigen, fix complement or form immune complexes. Recent evidence also suggests B cells indirectly induce autoimmunity by concentrating low avidity self antigen through the B cell receptor and presenting self-peptides to autoreactive T cells. B cells may also initiate autoimmunity when provided sufficient help from autoreactive T cells that have escaped deletion in the thymus. Here, we will review the role of anergy in maintenance of tolerance and how alterations in the normal balance of positive and negative signals may contribute to the development of autoimmune disease in mouse models and humans.