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Leukemia. 2002 Dec;16(12):2438-46.

Do CLL B cells correspond to naive or memory B-lymphocytes? Evidence for an active Ig switch unrelated to phenotype expression and Ig mutational pattern in B-CLL cells.

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Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Recent work suggests that chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) expressing unmutated immunoglobulin V genes could correspond to the proliferation of naive B cells whereas those expressing mutated genes, may correspond to the proliferation of post-germinal center B cells. Current data from gene profiling expression have failed to demonstrate a clear-cut distinction between these two forms of B-CLL disease. In the present study, we have investigated the complete V(H) nucleotide sequence and the presence of RNA transcripts from different C(H) domains in 25 B-CLL patients. Our results demonstrate that: (1) expression of IgD is not related to the mutational frequency and activation of the isotype switch pathway; (2) isotype switch, leading to simultaneous expression at the transcriptional and protein level of IgM, IgD, IgG and IgA, occurs in a small percentage of patients, and (3) different mechanisms such as VDJ duplication and trans-splicing or RNA splicing of long nuclear transcript, could be involved in isotype switch. Our results highlight the difficulty in assigning a normal counterpart to B-CLL cells and raise the possibility that a different B cell development pathway, independent from classical germinal centers, might exist in B-CLL.

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