The cause of many autoimmune and inflammatory diseases is unresolved, although dysregulated production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family members appears to be important in many cases. BAFF, a new member of the TNF family, binds to B cells and costimulates their growth in vitro. Mice transgenic for BAFF have vastly increased numbers of mature B and effector T cells, and develop autoimmune-like manifestations such as the presence of high levels of rheumatoid factors, circulating immune complexes, anti-DNA autoantibodies, and immunoglobulin deposition in the kidneys. This phenotype is reminiscent of certain human autoimmune disorders and suggests that dysregulation of BAFF expression may be a critical element in the chain of events leading to autoimmunity.
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