Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by clonal B cell attack of the exocrine glands and dysregulated expression of B cell-activating factor (BAFF). Based upon the current data of increased rates of lymphoid malignancy, as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is associated with SS, we propose the detection of clonal rearrangements of immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) gene in those patients as a predictor of malignant clonal expansion. To test our proposal, we examined the IgH clonal rearrangements in SS patients (60) and healthy control subjects (42) having chronic non-specific sialadenitis, to determine the presence of clonal B cells in minor labial salivary glands (MSG) of SS patients. Clonal B cell expansion was assessed by two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays: (i) semi-nested PCR, against sequences encoding framework regions FR3, FR2 and FR1c of the variable chain IgH gene in B cells present in the MSG infiltrate; and (ii) the PCR-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique, against the major and minor breakpoint regions of the Bcl-2 oncogene coupled with a variable segment of the IgH to assess the Bcl-2/JH translocation. When FR3, FR2 and FR1c primers were employed, we detected B cell monoclonality in 87% of the SS patients and 19% of the control subjects. The association between inflammation severity of the MSG pattern and the presence of B cell clonality was found to be statistically significant (P < 0·01). We concluded that the presence of B cell clonality in MSG can be used as a index of an altered microenvironment favouring the development of lymphoma in SS patients.
- B cell clonality
- Chronic sialadenitis
- Immunoglobulin heavy chain gene