Dynamic pre-BCR homodimers fine-tune autonomous survival signals in B cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
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The pre-B cell receptor (pre-BCR) is an immature form of the BCR critical for early B lymphocyte development. It is composed of the membrane-bound immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy chain, surrogate light chain components, and the signaling subunits Igα and Igβ. We developed monovalent quantum dot (QD)-labeled probes specific for Igβ to study the behavior of pre-BCRs engaged in autonomous, ligand-independent signaling in live B cells. Single-particle tracking revealed that QD-labeled pre-BCRs engaged in transient, but frequent, homotypic interactions. Receptor motion was correlated at short separation distances, consistent with the formation of dimers and higher-order oligomers. Repeated encounters between diffusing pre-BCRs appeared to reflect transient co-confinement in plasma membrane domains. In human B cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL) cells, we showed that frequent, short-lived, homotypic pre-BCR interactions stimulated survival signals, including expression of BCL6, which encodes a transcriptional repressor. These survival signals were blocked by inhibitory monovalent antigen-binding antibody fragments (Fabs) specific for the surrogate light chain components of the pre-BCR or by inhibitors of the tyrosine kinases Lyn and Syk. For comparison, we evaluated pre-BCR aggregation mediated by dimeric galectin-1, which has binding sites for carbohydrate and for the surrogate light chain λ5 component. Galectin-1 binding resulted in the formation of large, highly immobile pre-BCR aggregates, which was partially relieved by the addition of lactose to prevent the cross-linking of galectin-BCR complexes to other glycosylated membrane components. Analysis of the pre-BCR and its signaling partners suggested that they could be potential targets for combination therapy in BCP-ALL.Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.