To identify an MS-specific immune cell population by deep immune phenotyping and relate it to soluble signaling molecules in CSF.
We analyzed surface expression of 22 markers in paired blood/CSF samples from 39 patients using mass cytometry (cytometry by time of flight). We also measured the concentrations of 296 signaling molecules in CSF using proximity extension assay. Results were analyzed using highly automated unsupervised algorithmic informatics.
Mass cytometry objectively identified a B-cell population characterized by the expression of CD49d, CD69, CD27, CXCR3, and human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR as clearly associated with MS. Concentrations of the B cell–related factors, notably FCRL2, were increased in MS CSF, especially in early stages of the disease. The B-cell trophic factor B cell activating factor (BAFF) was decreased in MS. Proteins involved in neural plasticity were also reduced in MS.
When analyzed without a priori assumptions, both the soluble and the cellular compartments of the CSF in MS were characterized by markers related to B cells, and the strongest candidate for an MS-specific cell type has a B-cell phenotype.