Therapeutic agents antagonizing B-cell–activating factor/B-lymphocyte stimulator (BAFF/BLyS) are currently in clinical development for autoimmune diseases; belimumab is the first Food and Drug Administration–approved drug in more than 50 years for the treatment of lupus. As a member of the tumor necrosis factor superfamily, BAFF promotes B-cell survival and homeostasis and is overexpressed in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune diseases. BAFF exists in three recognized forms: membrane-bound and two secreted, soluble forms of either trimeric or 60-mer oligomeric states. To date, most in vitro pharmacology studies of BAFF neglect one or more of these forms. Here, we report a comprehensive in vitro cell-based analysis of BAFF in assay systems that measure all forms of BAFF-mediated activation. We demonstrate the effects of these BAFF forms in both a primary human B-cell proliferation assay and in nuclear factor κB reporter assay systems in Chinese hamster ovary cells expressing BAFF receptors and transmembrane activator and calcium-modulator and cyclophilin ligand interactor (TACI). In contrast to the mouse system, we find that BAFF trimer activates the human TACI receptor. Further, we profiled the activities of two clinically advanced BAFF antagonist antibodies, belimumab and tabalumab. Unexpectedly, we revealed differences in inhibitory potencies against the various BAFF forms, in particular that belimumab does not potently inhibit BAFF 60-mer. Through this increased understanding of the activity of BAFF antagonists against different forms of BAFF, we hope to influence the discovery of BAFF antagonist antibodies with distinct therapeutic mechanisms for improvement in the treatment of lupus or other related autoimmune pathologies.
- Copyright © 2016 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics