The Red Blood Cell as a Novel Regulator of Human B-cell Activation

Charlotte S Lennon, Huan Cao, Andrew M Hall, Mark A Vickers, Robert N Barker* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Non‐immune cells are increasingly recognized as important in regulating immunity, but the role of red blood cells (RBC) remains relatively unexplored, despite their abundance in the circulation and a cell surface rich in potential ligands. Here, we determine whether RBC influence the activation state of human B‐cells. Separation of RBC from peripheral blood mononuclear cells increased B‐cell expression of HLA‐DR/DP/DQ, whilst reconstitution reduced the levels of B‐cell activation markers HLA‐DR/DP/DQ, CD86, CD69 and CD40, as well as decreasing proliferative responses and IgM secretion. Inhibition of B‐cells required contact with RBC and was abrogated by either removal of sialic acids from RBC, or blocking the corresponding lectin receptor CD22 on B‐cells. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia B‐cells express low levels of CD22 and were less susceptible to inhibition by RBC, which may contribute to their activated phenotype. Taken together, the results identify a novel mechanism that may suppress inappropriate responsiveness of healthy B‐cells while circulating in the bloodstream.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Early online date6 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • immune regulation
  • B-cell
  • red blood cell
  • sialic acid
  • CD22
  • human


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