PublicationsEpstein-Barr virus and genetic risk variants as determinants of T-bet+ B cell-driven autoimmune diseases
B cells expressing the transcription factor T-bet are found to have a protective role in viral infections, but are also considered major players in the onset of different types of autoimmune diseases. Currently, the exact mechanisms driving such ‘atypical’ memory B cells to contribute to protective immunity or autoimmunity are unclear. In addition to general autoimmune-related factors including sex and age, the ways T-bet+ B cells instigate autoimmune diseases may be determined by the close interplay between genetic risk variants and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The impact of EBV on T-bet+ B cells likely relies on the type of risk variants associated with each autoimmune disease, which may affect their differentiation, migratory routes and effector function. In this hypothesis-driven review, we discuss the lines of evidence pointing to such genetic and/or EBV-mediated influence on T-bet+ B cells in a range of autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and multiple sclerosis (MS). We provide examples of how genetic risk variants can be linked to certain signaling pathways and are differentially affected by EBV to shape T-bet+ B-cells. Finally, we propose options to improve current treatment of B cell-related autoimmune diseases by more selective targeting of pathways that are critical for pathogenic T-bet+ B-cell formation.