Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders (LPDs) expressing stereotyped B-cell receptors (BCRs) endowed with rheumatoid factor (RF) activity and putatively recognizing the HCV E2 protein. To further untangle the shaping and function of these BCRs, we analyzed immunoglobulin gene rearrangements of monoclonal B cells from 13 patients with HCV-associated LPDs and correlated their features with the clinical outcomes of antiviral therapy. While only two patients shared a stereotyped heavy-chain complementarity determining region 3 (CDR3) sequence, two kappa chain CDR3 stereotyped sequences accounted for 77% of BCRs. Light chains were enriched in sequences homologous to anti-HCV E2 antibodies compared with heavy chains (7/13 vs. 0/13; p = 0.005). Anti-HCV E2 homology was uniquely associated (7/7 vs. 0/6; p = 0.0006) with a stereotyped CDR3 sequence encoded by IGKV3-20/3D-20 gene(s) accounting for 54% of BCRs. An IGKV3-15/IGKJ1-encoded stereotyped sequence homologous to WA RF accounted for 23% of BCRs. LPDs expressing KCDR3s homologous to anti-HCV E2 antibodies responded more frequently to the eradication of HCV by antiviral therapy (6/6 vs. 1/6; p = 0.015). These findings, although limited by the small sample size, suggest that a stereotyped KCDR3 may predominantly shape anti-HCV specificity of BCRs, possibly providing a signature that may help identifying bona fide HCV-dependent LPDs.
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