Published online May 28, 2020. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v26.i20.2645
Peer-review started: February 03, 2020
First decision: February 29, 2020
Revised: March 27, 2020
Accepted: May 13, 2020
Article in press: May 13, 2020
Published online: May 28, 2020
Recent evidence has indicated the role of B cells and B cell-activating factor (BAFF) in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
To characterize circulating BAFF receptor expression and B cell subpopulations in patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related HCC.
Peripheral blood samples collected from 41 patients with chronic HBV infection (25 patients without HCC and 16 patients with HCC) and 9 healthy controls were assessed for BAFF receptors [BAFF-R(B cell-activating factor receptor), transmembrane activator and cyclophilin ligand interactor, B-cell maturation antigen] and B cell subpopulations by multicolor flow cytometry.
The frequency of BAFF-R expressing B cells to total B cells was significantly lower in patients with HCC (3.39% ± 2.12%) compared with the non-HCC group (5.37% ± 1.90%) and healthy controls (6.23% ± 2.32%), whereas there was no difference in transmembrane activator and cyclophilin ligand interactor and B-cell maturation antigen. The frequencies of CD27+IgD+ memory B cells, CD27+IgD- class-switched memory B cells and plasmablasts were significantly lower in the patients with HCC compared to patients without HCC (1.23 ± 1.17 vs 3.09 ± 1.55, P = 0.001, 0.60 ± 0.44 vs 1.69 ± 0.86, P < 0.0001 and 0.16 ± 0.12 vs 0.37 ± 0.30, P = 0.014, respectively). However, the ratio of naïve and transitional B cell did not differ significantly between the three groups. In addition, decreased BAFF-R expression on B cells was significantly correlated with large tumor size and advanced tumor stage.
Our data demonstrated BAFF-R expression was reduced in B cells that involved with the frequencies of B cells maturation in patients with HCC. The depletion of BAFF-R might play an important role in the development of HCC in patients with chronic HBV infection.
Core tip: This study explored the expression of B cell-activating factor receptor (BAFF-R) and B cell subpopulations in patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Our data showed that BAFF-R expression was significantly lower in patient with HCC compared with non-HCC and healthy controls. In addition, the frequencies of CD27+IgD+ memory B cells, CD27+IgD- class-switched memory B cells and plasmablasts were significantly lower in the patients with HCC compared to patients without HCC. In addition, decreased BAFF-R expression was significantly correlated with tumor size and tumor stage. This study is the first report suggesting that the depletion of BAFF-R in B cells might be responsible for B cell maturation in patients with HBV-related HCC.