The emerging mysteries of IgG4-related disease.
Smit W., Barnes E.
IgG4-related disease (IgG4-RD) is increasingly recognised in Western societies as a multi-system, inflammatory, fibrosing disease of unknown aetiology that typically, though not exclusively, presents in older men. The clinical manifestations are diverse and almost any organ may be affected. The cardinal histological features are a lymphoplasmacytic infiltrate, storiform fibrosis, obliterative phlebitis and an abundance of IgG4+ plasma cells in affected organs. Serum IgG4 levels are elevated in approximately 70% of patients and are a useful biomarker when present. IgG4-RD is frequently misdiagnosed as malignancy. Making the correct diagnosis is important as the disease is usually steroid responsive, although relapse rates are high. Second-line immunosuppressive agents and B-cell depletion therapy have also been used in retreatment strategies. Recent data suggests that the disease is associated with both progressive organ failure and malignancy. The biological mechanisms driving IgG4-RD remain unclear but this is currently an area of intense scientific investigation. Broadly, IgG4+ B cells are thought to exhibit a regulatory phenotype, but it is not known if these are pathogenic or simply represent a bystander effect. Extending our understanding of the role of IgG4 immunoglobulins in health and disease, the assessment of B and T cell immune phenotype, and large genetic studies of IgG4-RD may enhance our understanding of disease pathogenesis. Ultimately it may be that there is not a single, simple unifying aetiology and so careful stratification of disease by clinical phenotype will be required in multi-centre prospective clinical cohorts. These cohorts will also be essential for the study of treatment outcomes with novel therapies.