B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) is defined by the accumulation of CD5+ B cells in the periphery and bone marrow. This disease is not characterized by highly proliferative cells but rather by the presence of leukemic cells with significant resistance to apoptosis and, therefore, prolonged survival. B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) is a newly identified tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family member shown to be critical for maintenance of normal B-cell development and homeostasis and it shares significant homology with another TNF superfamily member, APRIL. The striking effects of BLyS on normal B-cell maintenance and survival raises the possibility that it may be involved in pathogenesis and maintenance of hematologic malignancies, including B-CLL. In this study, we investigated the status of APRIL and BLyS expression, as well as their receptors, in this disease. All B-CLL patient cells studied expressed one or more of 3 known receptors for BLyS; however, the pattern of expression was variable. In addition, we demonstrate for the first time that B-CLL cells from a subset of patients aberrantly express BLyS and APRIL mRNA, whereas these molecules were not detectable in normal B cells. Furthermore, we provide in vitro evidence that BLyS protects B-CLL cells from apoptosis and enhances cell survival. Because these molecules are key regulators of B-cell homeostasis and tumor progression, leukemic cell autocrine expression of BLyS and APRIL may be playing an important role in the pathogenesis of this disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology