Methotrexate reduces circulating Th17 cells and impairs plasmablast and memory B cell expansions following pneumococcal conjugate immunization in RA patients

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Methotrexate (MTX) impairs antibody response after pneumococcal vaccination. We aimed to investigate differences in phenotypes of circulating B and T cells after pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients on MTX (MTX group), RA without disease-modifying drugs (0DMARD), and controls (HC). MTX group (n = 11), 0DMARD (n = 12) and HC (n = 13) were studied. Blood samples were collected: before MTX, ≥ 4 weeks on stable MTX dose (prevaccination), and 7 days postvaccination (MTX group), and pre- and 7 days postvaccination (0DMARD and HC). Phenotypes of B- and T cell subsets were determined using flow cytometry. Serotype-specific IgG were quantified using multiplex bead assay, pre- and 4–6 weeks postvaccination. Concentrations of plasmablasts and switched memory B cells increased after PCV in HC (both p = 0.03) and the 0DMARD group (p = 0.01 and p = 0.02), but not in the MTX group. Postimmunization plasmablasts were lower in MTX group, compared to the 0DMARD group and HC (p = 0.002 and p < 0.001). Th17 cells decreased after MTX start (p = 0.02), and increased in HC after immunization (p = 0.01). Postimmunization plasmablasts correlated with mean antibody response ratio in all RA patients (R = 0.57, p = 0.035). Methotrexate reduced Th17 cells and blocked activation of plasmablasts and switched memory B cells following polysaccharide-protein conjugate antigen challenge in RA.


External organisations
  • Central Hospital Kristianstad
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • Region Skåne
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Immunology in the medical area
Original languageEnglish
Article number9199
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch