B-cell receptor (BCR) triggering and responsiveness have a crucial role in the survival and expansion of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) clones. Analysis of in vitro response of CLL cells to BCR triggering allowed the definition of 2 main subsets of patients and lack of signaling capacity was associated with constitutive activation of extracellular-regulated kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2) and nuclear factor of activated T cells c1 (NF-ATc1), consistent with the idea that at least one group of CLL patients derives from the abnormal expansion of anergic B cells. In the present work, we further investigated the anergic subset of CLL (defined as the one with constitutive ERK1/2 phosphorylation) and found that it is characterized by low levels of surface immunoglobulin M and impairment of calcium mobilization after BCR engagement in vitro. Chronic BCR triggering promoted CLL cell survival selectively in phosphorylated ERK1/2 samples and the use of mitogen-activated protein kinase and NF-AT signaling inhibitors specifically induced apoptosis in this group of patients. Apoptosis induction was preceded by an initial phase of anergy reversal consisting in the loss of ERK phosphorylation and NF-AT nuclear translocation and by the restoration of BCR responsiveness, reinforcing the idea that the anergic program favors the survival of leukemic lymphocytes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology