Machine Learning Analysis of Naïve B-Cell Receptor Repertoires Stratifies Celiac Disease Patients and Controls

Or Shemesh, Pazit Polak, Knut E.A. Lundin, Ludvig M. Sollid, Gur Yaari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Celiac disease (CeD) is a common autoimmune disorder caused by an abnormal immune response to dietary gluten proteins. The disease has high heritability. HLA is the major susceptibility factor, and the HLA effect is mediated via presentation of deamidated gluten peptides by disease-associated HLA-DQ variants to CD4+ T cells. In addition to gluten-specific CD4+ T cells the patients have antibodies to transglutaminase 2 (autoantigen) and deamidated gluten peptides. These disease-specific antibodies recognize defined epitopes and they display common usage of specific heavy and light chains across patients. Interactions between T cells and B cells are likely central in the pathogenesis, but how the repertoires of naïve T and B cells relate to the pathogenic effector cells is unexplored. To this end, we applied machine learning classification models to naïve B cell receptor (BCR) repertoires from CeD patients and healthy controls. Strikingly, we obtained a promising classification performance with an F1 score of 85%. Clusters of heavy and light chain sequences were inferred and used as features for the model, and signatures associated with the disease were then characterized. These signatures included amino acid (AA) 3-mers with distinct bio-physiochemical characteristics and enriched V and J genes. We found that CeD-associated clusters can be identified and that common motifs can be characterized from naïve BCR repertoires. The results may indicate a genetic influence by BCR encoding genes in CeD. Analysis of naïve BCRs as presented here may become an important part of assessing the risk of individuals to develop CeD. Our model demonstrates the potential of using BCR repertoires and in particular, naïve BCR repertoires, as disease susceptibility markers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number627813
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
StatePublished - 10 Mar 2021


  • BCR repertoire
  • celiac disease
  • immune response
  • machine learning
  • naïve B-cells

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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