Prevention of B cell antigen receptor-induced apoptosis by ligation of CD40 occurs downstream of cell cycle regulation

Wendelina J M Mackus, Susanne M A Lens, René H Medema, Mark J Kwakkenbos, Ludo M Evers, Marinus H J van Oers, René A W van Lier, Eric Eldering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cross-linking of the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) on germinal center B cells can induce growth arrest and apoptosis, thereby eliminating potentially autoreactive B cells. Using the Burkitt lymphoma cell line Ramos as a model, we studied the commitment to apoptosis following growth arrest, as well as how triggering of CD40 or addition of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha can interfere to block cell death. Both BCR triggering and direct induction of growth arrest by sodium butyrate (n-But) caused hypophosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein (pRb), followed by apoptosis. Interestingly, although CD40 ligation or TNF-alpha efficiently prevented BCR-induced and n-But-induced apoptosis, these co-stimuli did not inhibit, but rather augmented, growth arrest. Analysis of cell cycle regulators showed that each apoptotic and T(h) stimulus distinctly affected cyclins or cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors, indicating that growth arrest can be uncoupled from apoptosis. BCR ligation and growth arrest activated the intrinsic or mitochondrial route of apoptosis. CD40 ligation and TNF-alpha prevented release of cytochrome c and activation of caspase-3, which could not be explained by effects on the expression of Bcl-2, Bcl-x(L) or Bax. Finally, the onset of BCR-induced apoptosis occurred after 10-12 h and addition of CD40 mAb or TNF-alpha at that point still prevented further execution of apoptosis. We conclude that in mature B cells apoptosis is not an obligatory event following growth arrest. Instead, commitment to apoptosis can be rapidly controlled by T cells via CD40 ligand and TNF-alpha, downstream of the pRb-regulated restriction point of the cell cycle, but prior to mitochondrial cytochrome c release.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-82
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Immunology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2002


  • Apoptosis/drug effects
  • CD40 Antigens/immunology
  • Cell Cycle/drug effects
  • Cytochrome c Group/physiology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell/physiology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha/pharmacology


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