Interferon-beta increases systemic BAFF levels in multiple sclerosis without increasing autoantibody production

Chris Juul Hedegaard, Finn Sellebjerg, Martin Krakauer, Dan Hesse, Klaus Bendtzen, Claus H. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: Treatment with interferon-beta (IFN-beta) increases B-cell activating factor of the TNF family (BAFF) expression in multiple sclerosis (MS), raising the concern that treatment of MS patients with IFN-beta may activate autoimmune B cells and stimulate the production of MS-associated autoantibodies.Objective: To investigate whether BAFF levels are associated with disease severity/activity in untreated MS patients, and to assess the effect of IFN-beta therapy on circulating BAFF and anti-myelin basic protein (MBP) autoantibody levels.Results: Twenty-three patients with relapsing–remitting MS (RRMS) were followed longitudinally from initiation of IFN-beta therapy. Their blood levels of BAFF correlated positively at baseline with the expanded disability status scale (p <0.009) and MS severity score (p <0.05), but not with disease activity as determined by the number of gadolinium-enhanced lesions. The patients were followed for up to 26 months, during which the BAFF levels remained elevated without association to increased disease activity. IFN-beta therapy caused an increase in plasma BAFF levels after both 3 and 6 months of therapy (p <0.002). However, an 11% decrease in IgM and a 33% decrease in IgG anti-MBP autoantibodies (p <0.09 and p <0.009, respectively) was observed after 6 months.Conclusion: Pre-treatment BAFF levels correlate with high disability scores in MS, suggesting that high BAFF expression is a negative prognostic marker. Despite its known beneficial effects, IFN-beta therapy causes a sustained increase in plasma BAFF levels, which does not translate into increased levels of anti-MBP autoantibodies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)567-577
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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