The relationship between primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), a chronic cholestatic autoimmune liver disease, and the peripheral immune system remains to be fully understood. Herein, we performed the first mass cytometry (CyTOF)-based, immunophenotyping analysis of the peripheral immune system in PBC at single-cell resolution. CyTOF was performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from PBC patients (n = 33) and age-/sex-matched healthy controls (n = 33) to obtain immune cell abundance and marker expression profiles. Hierarchical clustering methods were applied to identify immune cell types and subsets significantly associated with PBC. Subsets of gamma-delta T cells (CD3+TCRgd+), CD8+ T cells (CD3+CD8+CD161+PD1+), and memory B cells (CD3−CD19+CD20+CD24+CD27+) were found to have lower abundance in PBC than in control. In contrast, higher abundance of subsets of monocytes and naïve B cells were observed in PBC compared to control. Furthermore, several naïve B cell (CD3−CD19+CD20+CD24−CD27−) subsets were significantly higher in PBC patients with cirrhosis (indicative of late-stage disease) than in those without cirrhosis. Alternatively, subsets of memory B cells were lower in abundance in cirrhotic relative to non-cirrhotic PBC patients. Future immunophenotyping investigations could lead to better understanding of PBC pathogenesis and progression, and also to the discovery of novel biomarkers and treatment strategies.
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