B cells in type 1 diabetes mellitus and diabetic kidney disease
Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is an autoimmune disorder that affects an estimated 30 million people worldwide. It is characterized by the destruction of pancreatic β cells by the immune system, which leads to lifelong dependency on exogenous insulin and imposes an enormous burden on patients and health-care resources. T1DM is also associated with an increased risk of comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, retinopathy, and diabetic kidney disease (DKD), further contributing to the burden of this disease. Although T cells are largely considered to be responsible for β-cell destruction in T1DM, increasing evidence points towards a role for B cells in disease pathogenesis. B cell-depletion, for example, delays disease progression in patients with newly diagnosed T1DM. Loss of tolerance of islet antigen-reactive B cells occurs early in disease and numbers of pancreatic CD20+ B cells correlate with β-cell loss. Although the importance of B cells in T1DM is increasingly apparent, exactly how these cells contribute to disease and its comorbidities, such as DKD, is not well understood. Here we discuss the role of B cells in the pathogenesis of T1DM and how these cells are activated during disease development. Finally, we speculate on how B cells might contribute to the development of DKD.