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J Exp Med. 2000 Oct 2;192(7):953-64.

Attenuation of apoptosis underlies B lymphocyte stimulator enhancement of humoral immune response.

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Department of Pathology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) is a newly identified monocyte-specific TNF family cytokine. It has been implicated in the development of autoimmunity, and functions as a potent costimulator with antiimmunoglobulin M in B cell proliferation in vitro. Here we demonstrate that BLyS prominently enhances the humoral responses to both T cell-independent and T cell-dependent antigens, primarily by attenuation of apoptosis as evidenced by the prolonged survival of antigen-activated B cells in vivo and in vitro. BLyS acts on primary splenic B cells autonomously, and directly cooperates with CD40 ligand (CD40L) in B cell activation in vitro by protecting replicating B cells from apoptosis. Moreover, although BLyS alone cannot activate the cell cycle, it is sufficient to prolong the survival of naive resting B cells in vitro. Attenuation of apoptosis by BLyS correlates with changes in the ratios between Bcl-2 family proteins in favor of cell survival, predominantly by reducing the proapoptotic Bak and increasing its prosurvival partners, Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL. In either resting or CD40L-activated B cells, the NF-kappaB transcription factors RelB and p50 are specifically activated, suggesting that they may mediate BLyS signals for B cell survival. Together, these results provide direct evidence for BLyS enhancement of both T cell-independent and T cell-dependent humoral immune responses, and imply a role for BLyS in the conservation of the B cell repertoire. The ability of BLyS to increase B cell survival indiscriminately, at either a resting or activated state, and to cooperate with CD40L, further suggests that attenuation of apoptosis underlies BLyS enhancement of polyclonal autoimmunity as well as the physiologic humoral immune response.

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