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Dysregulation of the oncogenic transcription factor MYC induces B-cell transformation and is a driver for B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL). MYC overexpression in B-NHL is associated with more aggressive phenotypes and poor prognosis. Although genomic studies suggest a link between MYC overexpression and B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling molecules in B-NHL, signaling pathways essential to Myc-mediated B-cell transformation have not been fully elucidated. We utilized intracellular phospho-flow cytometry to investigate the relationship between Myc and BCR signaling in pre-malignant B cells. Utilizing the Eμ-myc mouse model, where Myc is overexpressed specifically in B cells, both basal and stimulated BCR signaling were increased in precancerous B lymphocytes from Eμ-myc mice compared with wild-type littermates. B cells overexpressing Myc displayed constitutively higher levels of activated CD79α, Btk, Plcγ2 and Erk1/2. Notably, Myc-overexpressing B cells maintained elevated BCR signaling despite treatment with ibrutinib, a Bruton's tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Furthermore, PI3K/Akt pathway signaling was also increased in Eμ-myc B cells, and this increase was partially suppressed with ibrutinib. In addition, experiments with Btk-null B cells revealed off-target effects of ibrutinib on BCR signaling. Our data show that in pre-malignant B cells, Myc overexpression is sufficient to activate BCR and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways and further enhances signaling following BCR ligation. Therefore, our results indicate that precancerous B cells have already acquired enhanced survival and growth capabilities before transformation, and that elevated MYC levels confer resistance to pharmacologic inhibitors of BCR signaling, which has significant implications for B-NHL treatment.
Kinases downstream of B-cell antigen receptor (BCR) represent attractive targets for therapy in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). As clinical responses vary, improved knowledge regarding activation and regulation of BCR signaling in individual patients is needed. Here, using phosphospecific flow cytometry to obtain malignant B-cell signaling profiles from 95 patients representing 4 types of NHL revealed a striking contrast between chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) tumors. Lymphoma cells from diffuse large B-cell lymphoma patients had high basal phosphorylation levels of most measured signaling nodes, whereas follicular lymphoma cells represented the opposite pattern with no or very low basal levels. MCL showed large interpatient variability in basal levels, and elevated levels for the phosphorylated forms of AKT, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, p38, STAT1, and STAT5 were associated with poor outcome. CLL tumors had elevated basal levels for the phosphorylated forms of BCR-signaling nodes (Src family tyrosine kinase, spleen tyrosine kinase [SYK], phospholipase Cγ), but had low α-BCR-induced signaling. This contrasted MCL tumors, where α-BCR-induced signaling was variable, but significantly potentiated as compared with the other types. Overexpression of CD79B, combined with a gating strategy whereby signaling output was directly quantified per cell as a function of CD79B levels, confirmed a direct relationship between surface CD79B, immunoglobulin M (IgM), and IgM-induced signaling levels. Furthermore, α-BCR-induced signaling strength was variable across patient samples and correlated with BCR subunit CD79B expression, but was inversely correlated with susceptibility to Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) and SYK inhibitors in MCL. These individual differences in BCR levels and signaling might relate to differences in therapy responses to BCR-pathway inhibitors.
© 2017 by The American Society of Hematology.
BACKGROUND - Knowledge about signaling pathways in malignant cells may provide prognostic and diagnostic information in addition to identify potential molecular targets for therapy. B-cell receptor (BCR) and co-receptor CD40 signaling is essential for normal B cells, and there is increasing evidence that signaling via BCR and CD40 plays an important role in the pathogenesis of B-cell lymphoma. The aim of this study was to investigate basal and induced signaling in lymphoma B cells and infiltrating T cells in single-cell suspensions of biopsies from small cell lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia (SLL/CLL) and marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) patients.
METHODS - Samples from untreated SLL/CLL and MZL patients were examined for basal and activation induced signaling by phospho-specific flow cytometry. A panel of 9 stimulation conditions targeting B and T cells, including crosslinking of the B cell receptor (BCR), CD40 ligand and interleukins in combination with 12 matching phospho-protein readouts was used to study signaling.
RESULTS - Malignant B cells from SLL/CLL patients had higher basal levels of phosphorylated (p)-SFKs, p-PLCγ, p-ERK, p-p38, p-p65 (NF-κB), p-STAT5 and p-STAT6, compared to healthy donor B cells. In contrast, anti-BCR induced signaling was highly impaired in SLL/CLL and MZL B cells as determined by low p-SFK, p-SYK and p-PLCγ levels. Impaired anti-BCR-induced p-PLCγ was associated with reduced surface expression of IgM and CD79b. Similarly, CD40L-induced p-ERK and p-p38 were also significantly reduced in lymphoma B cells, whereas p-p65 (NF-κB) was equal to that of normal B cells. In contrast, IL-2, IL-7 and IL-15 induced p-STAT5 in tumor-infiltrating T cells were not different from normal T cells.
CONCLUSIONS - BCR signaling and CD40L-induced p-p38 was suppressed in malignant B cells from SLL/CLL and MZL patients. Single-cell phospho-specific flow cytometry for detection of basal as well as activation-induced phosphorylation of signaling proteins in distinct cell populations can be used to identify aberrant signaling pathways.
The maturation of IgM-expressing B cells to IgM-secreting plasma cells is associated with both an increase in mu mRNA and the ratio of secreted to membrane forms of mu mRNA. In contrast, previous studies demonstrated that in vitro the secreted form of alpha mRNA (alpha s mRNA) predominates regardless of the stage of B cell differentiation. The present study demonstrates that alpha s mRNA predominates in both B cells derived from the germinal centers of murine Peyer's patches and in the functional IgA memory population, suggesting that in vitro events accurately represent the generation of a secretory IgA response in vivo. Although the predominant usage of the alpha s poly(A) site is due to RNA processing, it does not depend on either the alpha s poly(A) site, the 3' splice site associated with the exon encoding the membrane exon of IgA (alphaM) or the alphaM poly(A) sites. Analysis of the sequence of the intron between the alpha s terminus and alphaM (alpha s-alphaM intron) demonstrates the existence of several potential regulatory elements. Furthermore, the effects of deletions within the alpha s-alphaM intron on 3' terminus usage demonstrate that the predominant usage of the proximal terminus is not strictly dependent on the length of the intron. Together with previous work, these observations support the idea that choice of 3' terminus for all Ig heavy chain genes is regulated by a similar mechanism, but specific sequences within a heavy chain gene can impinge upon that mechanism.