Deregulated Bcl-2-immunoglobulin transgene expands a resting but responsive immunoglobulin M and D-expressing B-cell population.
McDonnell TJ., Nunez G., Platt FM., Hockenberry D., London L., McKearn JP., Korsmeyer SJ.
We characterized the basis for the follicular lymphoproliferation in transgenic mice bearing a Bcl-2-immunoglobulin (Bcl-2-Ig) minigene representing the t(14;18) of human follicular lymphoma. Discriminatory S1 nuclease protection assays revealed that the Bcl-2-Ig transgene was overexpressed relative to endogenous mouse Bcl-2 in spleen and thymus. Western (immunoblot) analysis demonstrated the overproduction of the human 25-kilodalton Bcl-2 protein, which arose from the transgene, in spleen, thymus, and the expanded B-cell subset. Despite the generalized lymphoid pattern of deregulation, two-color flow cytometry and density gradient centrifugation indicated that the expanded lymphocytes were predominantly small, resting B cells coexpressing B220, immunoglobulin M (IgM), IgD, Ia, and kappa. Cell cycle analysis confirmed that about 97% of these expanded B cells reside in G0/G1. An extensive characterization of transgenic lines revealed a fourfold excess of IgM-IgD-expressing B cells in spleen and dramatically increased numbers in bone marrow. While resting, these cells proliferated in response to lipopolysaccharide and anti-IgM and demonstrated normal B-cell colony formation in soft agar. Moreover, these B cells, which demonstrated an extended survival in vitro even in the absence of stroma, were also resting in G0, yet were capable of proliferative responses. These findings provide consistent evidence that the accumulation of B cells after Bcl-2 overproduction is secondary to prolonged cell survival and not increased cell cycling. This suggests a unique role for Bcl-2 as a proto-oncogene that enhances cell survival independent of promoting cell division.