B cell-activating factor of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family, or BAFF, is mainly produced in monocytes and dendritic cells, and indispensable for proliferation, differentiation and survival of B cells. BAFF is a type II membrane-bound protein and the extracellular C-terminal fragment is released from the cells as soluble BAFF (sBAFF), which binds to specific receptors on B cells. Accumulating evidence suggests that BAFF plays an important role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In this study, we developed a sensitive sandwich ELISA system to quantify the amount of sBAFF using our own mAb. Treatment of peripheral T cells of SLE patients with an anti-CD3 antibody triggered robust expression of BAFF and subsequent release of sBAFF from the cells. On the other hand, the stimulus induced only marginal elevation of sBAFF from normal T cells. These data indicate that BAFF is expressed in T cells upon stimulation at least under pathological conditions. Expression of BAFF was also largely induced in a human T cell line, Loucy (American Type Tissue Collection CRL-2629), in response to several stimuli, while other T cell lines so far examined produced the cytokine almost constitutively. These data suggest that Loucy recapitulates some of the characteristics of SLE T cells. Investigation of molecular and cellular mechanisms of production of BAFF in Loucy demonstrated that expression of BAFF was regulated through a signal transduction pathway which involves c-jun NH2-terminal kinase and p38, and that shedding of BAFF was catalyzed by a membrane-bound protease, furin.
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