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Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 1994 Nov;73(2):197-204.

Interferon-alpha-mediated prevention of in vitro apoptosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells: role of bcl-2 and c-myc.

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INSERM U 131, Clamart, France.


Chronic B lymphocytic leukemia cells (B-CLL), characterized by the accumulation in vivo of long-life span B cells, exhibit spontaneous programmed cell death or apoptosis when cultured in vitro. We show that interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha), although able to decrease in vivo the number of leukemic cells, protects chronic B lymphocytic leukemia cells from in vitro programmed cell death or apoptosis. This inhibition of spontaneous in vitro apoptosis of leukemic B cells was observed after 24-48 hr of culture with 100-1000 U of either Interferon-alpha 2a or 2b. The protective activity was observed in the majority of the patients tested (6 out of 8) independent of the amount of apoptosis observed. Furthermore, in contrast to IL-4, IFN-alpha did not up-regulate the expression of Bcl-2. This suggests that B-CLL cells can be prevented from undergoing apoptosis in vitro by at least two different mechanisms: one, triggered for instance by IL-4, is associated with Bcl-2 production and the second triggered by Interferon-alpha is Bcl-2 independent. To elucidate the pathways mobilized by Interferon-alpha we also studied the regulation of c-myc expression in our experimental system. We found that (i) induction of in vitro B-CLL apoptosis was not associated with up-regulation of c-myc, (ii) c-myc expression as assessed by mRNA and protein determinations was increased after in vitro or in vivo Interferon-alpha stimulation. Additional experiments using c-myc specific oligonucleotides demonstrated that when Interferon-alpha-mediated c-myc expression was decreased by 60%, the in vitro protective effect of Interferon-alpha was not modified. Thus our data show that in contrast to the situation in vivo, Interferon-alpha prevents spontaneous in vitro B-CLL cells apoptosis through a Bcl-2-independent pathway which is probably not related to c-myc up-regulation.

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