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In vitro and in vivo evidence for uncoupling of B-cell receptor internalization and signaling in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Eve M. Coulter, Andrea Pepper, Silvia Mele, Najeem'deen Folarin, William Townsend, Kirsty Cuthill, Elizabeth H. Phillips, Piers E. M. Patten, Stephen Devereux

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-505
Issue number3
Early online date14 Dec 2017
Accepted/In press12 Dec 2017
E-pub ahead of print14 Dec 2017
PublishedMar 2018


King's Authors


B-cell receptor activation, occurring within lymph nodes, plays a key role in the pathogenesis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and is linked to prognosis. As well as activation of downstream signaling, receptor ligation triggers internalization, transit to acidified endosomes and degradation of ligand-receptor complexes. In the present study we investigated the relationship between these two processes in normal and leukemic B-cells. We found that leukemic B-cells, particularly anergic cases lacking the capacity to initiate downstream signaling, internalize and accumulate ligand in acidified endosomes more efficiently than normal B-cells. Furthermore, ligation of either surface CD79B, a B-cell receptor component required for downstream signaling, or surface IgM by cognate agonistic antibody, showed that the two molecules internalize independently of each other in leukemic but not normal B-cells. Since association with surface CD79B is required for surface retention of IgM, this suggests that uncoupling of B-cell receptor internalization from signaling may be due to dissociation of these two molecules in leukemic cells. Comparison of lymph node with peripheral blood cells from chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients showed that, despite recent B-cell receptor activation, lymph node B-cells expressed higher levels of surface IgM. This surprising finding suggests that the B-cell receptors of lymph node and peripheral blood derived leukemic cells might be functionally distinct. Finally, long-term therapy with the Bruton's tyrosine kinase inhibitors ibrutinib or acalabrutinib resulted in a switch to an anergic pattern of B-cell receptor function with reduced signaling capacity, surface IgM expression and more efficient internalization.

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