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J Immunol. 2010 Sep 15;185(6):3369-78. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902541. Epub 2010 Aug 18.

Proximal events in 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced, stromal cell-dependent bone marrow B cell apoptosis: stromal cell-B cell communication and apoptosis signaling.

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Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Intercellular communication is an essential process in stimulating lymphocyte development and in activating and shaping an immune response. B cell development requires cell-to-cell contact with and cytokine production by bone marrow stromal cells. However, this intimate relationship also may be responsible for the transfer of death-inducing molecules to the B cells. 7,12-Dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA), a prototypical polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, activates caspase-3 in pro/pre-B cells in a bone marrow stromal cell-dependent manner, resulting in apoptosis. These studies were designed to examine the hypothesis that an intrinsic apoptotic pathway is activated by DMBA and that the ultimate death signal is a DMBA metabolite generated by the stromal cells and transferred to the B cells. Although a loss of mitochondrial membrane potential did not occur in the DMBA/stromal cell-induced pathway, cytochrome c release was stimulated in B cells. Caspase-9 was activated, and formation of the apoptosome was required to support apoptosis, as demonstrated by the suppression of death in Apaf-1(fog) mutant pro-B cells. Investigation of signaling upstream of the mitochondria demonstrated an essential role for p53. Furthermore, DMBA-3,4-dihydrodiol-1,2-epoxide, a DNA-reactive metabolite of DMBA, was sufficient to upregulate p53, induce caspase-9 cleavage, and initiate B cell apoptosis in the absence of stromal cells, suggesting that production of this metabolite by the stromal cells and transfer to the B cells are proximal events in triggering apoptosis. Indeed, we provide evidence that metabolite transfer from bone marrow stromal cells occurs through membrane exchange, which may represent a novel communication mechanism between developing B cells and stromal cells.

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