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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a common B-cell malignancy characterized by a highly variable course and outcome. The disease is believed to be driven by B-cell receptor (BCR) signals generated by external antigens and/or cell-autonomous BCR interactions, but direct in vivo evidence for this is still lacking. To further define the role of the BCR pathway in the development and progression of CLL, we evaluated the capacity of different types of antigen/BCR interactions to induce leukemia in the Eμ-TCL1 transgenic mouse model. We show that cell autonomous signaling capacity is a uniform characteristic of the leukemia-derived BCRs and represents a prerequisite for CLL development. Low-affinity BCR interactions with autoantigens generated during apoptosis are also positively selected, suggesting that they contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease. In contrast, high-affinity BCR interactions are not selected, regardless of antigen form or presentation. We also show that the capacity of the leukemic cells to respond to cognate antigen correlates inversely with time to leukemia development, suggesting that signals induced by external antigen increase the aggressiveness of the disease. Collectively, these findings provide in vivo evidence that the BCR pathway drives the development and can influence the clinical course of CLL.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1578 - 1588


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Antigen Presentation, Autoantigens, Disease Progression, Gene Rearrangement, B-Lymphocyte, Heavy Chain, Gene Rearrangement, B-Lymphocyte, Light Chain, Humans, Leukemia, Experimental, Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Transgenic, Molecular Sequence Data, Muramidase, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell, Signal Transduction, snRNP Core Proteins