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Eur J Immunol. 1993 Dec;23(12):3109-14.

The Bruton's tyrosine kinase gene is expressed throughout B cell differentiation, from early precursor B cell stages preceding immunoglobulin gene rearrangement up to mature B cell stages.

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Department of Immunohematology, University Hospital, The Netherlands.


X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) is an immunodeficiency disease in man, resulting from an arrest in early B cell differentiation. The gene defective in XLA has recently been identified and encodes a cytoplasmic protein tyrosine kinase, named Bruton's tyrosine kinase (btk), essential for cell differentiation and proliferation at the transition from pre-B to later B cell stages. In this study we investigated btk expression by Northern blotting experiments in a series of human (precursor-) B cell lines, acute lymphoblastic leukemias and plasmacytomas. btk was found to be already expressed in very early stages of B cell differentiation, even prior to immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy (H) or light (L) chain gene rearrangements. Transcripts were also detected at the pre-B cell stage and in mature B cells, irrespective of the Ig H chain class expressed. Approximately at the transition from mature B cells to plasma cells, expression of the btk gene is down-regulated. In addition, the btk gene was found to be expressed in myeloid cell lines and acute myeloid leukemias. btk expression in myeloid cells is probably not a prerequisite for myeloid differentiation, since myeloid cells in XLA patients seem not to be affected. No btk expression was found in T-lineage cells. The btk expression profile, i.e. from early precursor-B cell stages preceding Ig rearrangement up to mature B cells, supports the hypothesis that the XLA defect resides in a critical step of B cell development which is independent of the Ig gene recombination machinery.

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