The degree of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) B-cell antigen receptor (BCR) binding to myosin-exposed apoptotic cells (MEACs) correlates with worse patient outcomes, suggesting a link to disease activity. Therefore, we studied MEAC formation and the effects of MEAC binding on CLL cells. In cell line studies, both intrinsic (spontaneous or camptothecin-induced) and extrinsic (FasL- or anti-Fas-induced) apoptosis created a high percent of MEACs over time in a process associated with caspase-3 activation, leading to cytoplasmic myosin cleavage and trafficking to cell membranes. The involvement of common apoptosis pathways suggests that most cells can produce MEACs and indeed CLL cells themselves form MEACs. Consistent with the idea that MEAC formation may be a signal to remove dying cells, we found that natural IgM antibodies bind to MEACs. Functionally, co-culture of MEACs with CLL cells, regardless of immunoglobulin heavy-chain variable region gene mutation status, improved leukemic cell viability. Based on inhibitor studies, this improved viability involved BCR signaling molecules. These results support the hypothesis that stimulation of CLL cells with antigen, such as those on MEACs, promotes CLL cell viability, which in turn could lead to progression to worse disease.Leukemia advance online publication, 14 August 2015; doi:10.1038/leu.2015.204.
Faculty; Northwell Researcher
School of Medicine; Northwell Health
General Internal Medicine; Hematology/Medical Oncology