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Leukemia. 2010 May;24(5):958-69. doi: 10.1038/leu.2010.36. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

CD38 increases CXCL12-mediated signals and homing of chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells.

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Department of Genetics, Biology and Biochemistry, University of Torino Medical School, Turin, Italy.


Homing of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells to sites favoring growth, a critical step in disease progression, is principally coordinated by the CXCL12/CXCR4 axis. A cohort of 62 CLL patients was divided into migrating and nonmigrating subsets according to chemotaxis toward CXCL12. Migrating patients phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) proteins more than nonmigrating patients (P<0.0002). CD38 expression was the parameter most strongly associated with heightened CXCL12 signaling (P<0.0001), confirmed by independent statistical approaches. Consistent with this observation, CD38(-) CLL cells in samples with bimodal CD38 expression responded less to CXCL12 than the intact clone (P=0.003). Furthermore, lentivirus-induced de novo expression of CD38 was paralleled by increased responses to CXCL12, as compared with cells infected with a control virus. CD38 ligation with agonistic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) enhanced CXCL12 signaling, whereas blocking anti-CD38 mAbs inhibited chemokine effects in vitro. This is attributed to physical proximity on the membrane between CD38 and CXCR4 (the CXCL12 receptor), as shown by (i) coimmunoprecipitation and (ii) confocal microscopy experiments. Blocking anti-CD38 mAbs significantly compromised homing of CLL cells from blood to lymphoid organs in a mouse model. These results indicate that CD38 synergizes with the CXCR4 pathway and support the working hypothesis that migration is a central step in disease progression.

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