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Immunol Rev. 2000 Jun;175:47-58.

The role of the preBCR, the interleukin-7 receptor, and homotypic interactions during B-cell development.

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Department of Immunology, University of Toronto, Ontario Cancer Institute, University Health Network, Canada.


Considerable progress has been made in defining intermediate stages in the process leading from stem cells to mature B cells. Cell-bound and secreted molecules direct the progression through these stages and regulate the selection of clones from which the immune repertoire emerges. In fact, a myriad of signals derived from B-cell progenitors themselves and the microenvironment in which they develop direct the differentiation process. These signals are provided by B-cell antigen receptors (BCR) and their surrogates, and by adhesion and cytokine receptors. The co-operation of these receptors to control survival, expansion, and differentiation of early B-cell progenitors is the topic of this review. Specifically, we will summarize recent findings from our laboratory demonstrating that preBCR expression lowers the threshold for interleukin (IL)-7 responsiveness. How signals initiated by these receptors may intersect at this critical point of B-cell selection will be discussed. At the stage following IL-7 responsiveness we have shown that interactions between B-cell progenitors themselves promote their differentiation to immunoglobulin-secreting B cells. We propose that one function of stromal cells, known to be central to B lymphopoiesis, is to promote critical preB-preB homotypic interactions and ensuing signals.

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