B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Lessons learned from studies of the B cell antigen receptor

Nicholas Chiorazzi, Manlio Ferrarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) is an accumulative disease of slowly proliferating CD5+ B lymphocytes that develops in the aging population. Whereas some patients with B-CLL have an indolent course and die after many years from unrelated causes, others progress very rapidly and succumb within a few years from this currently incurable leukemia. Over the past decade studies of the structure and function of the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) used by these leukemic cells have helped redefine the nature of this disease. In this review we summarize and reinterpret several aspects of these BCR-related studies and how they might relate to the disease. In particular, we address the ability of antigens to select out and drive B cell clones from the normal state to overt leukemic cells by binding to BCRs that are relatively unique and characteristic of B-CLL cells. The differential capacity of some B-CLL cases to continue to transduce signals through the BCR during the leukemic phase and the consequences for the in vivo biology of the leukemic clone is also considered. Finally, we discuss current and emerging views of the cellular origin of B-CLL cells and the differentiation pathways down which we believe these cells progress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-894
Number of pages54
JournalAnnual Review of Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Antibody repertoire
  • Ig V gene
  • Lymphocyte subsets
  • Lymphoma
  • Somatic hypermutation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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