PloS one

Differentiation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells into immunoglobulin secreting cells decreases LEF-1 expression.

PMID 21998751


Lymphocyte enhancer binding factor 1 (LEF-1) plays a crucial role in B lineage development and is only expressed in B cell precursors as B cell differentiation into mature B and plasma cells silences its expression. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells aberrantly express LEF-1 and its expression is required for cellular survival. We hypothesized that modification of the differentiation status of CLL cells would result in loss of LEF-1 expression and eliminate the survival advantage provided by its aberrant expression. In this study, we first established a methodology that induces CLL cells to differentiate into immunoglobulin (Ig) secreting cells (ISC) using the TLR9 agonist, CpG, together with cytokines (CpG/c). CpG/c stimulation resulted in dramatic CLL cell phenotypic and morphologic changes, expression of cytoplasmic Ig, and secretion of light chain restricted Ig. CpG/c stimulation also resulted in decreased CLL cell LEF-1 expression and increased Blimp-1 expression, which is crucial for plasma cell differentiation. Further, Wnt pathway activation and cellular survival were impaired in differentiated CLL cells compared to undifferentiated CLL cells. These data support the notion that CLL can differentiate into ISC and that this triggers decreased leukemic cell survival secondary to the down regulation of LEF-1 and decreased Wnt pathway activation.