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Blood. 2002 Dec 15;100(13):4609-14. Epub 2002 Aug 8.

Expression of ZAP-70 is associated with increased B-cell receptor signaling in chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego for the CLL Research Consortium, San Diego, CA, USA.


We examined isolated leukemia B cells of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for expression of zeta-associated protein 70 (ZAP-70). CLL B cells that have nonmutated immunoglobulin variable region genes (V genes) expressed levels of ZAP-70 protein that were comparable to those expressed by normal blood T cells. In contrast, CLL B cells that had mutated immunoglobulin variable V genes, or that had low-level expression of CD38, generally did not express detectable amounts of ZAP-70 protein. Leukemia cells from identical twins with CLL were found discordant for expression of ZAP-70, suggesting that B-cell expression of ZAP-70 is not genetically predetermined. Ligation of the B-cell receptor (BCR) complex on CLL cells that expressed ZAP-70 induced significantly greater tyrosine phosphorylation of cytosolic proteins, including p72(Syk), than did similar stimulation of CLL cells that did not express ZAP-70. Also, exceptional cases of CLL cells that expressed mutated immunoglobulin V genes and ZAP-70 also experienced higher levels tyrosine phosphorylation of such cytosolic proteins following BCR ligation. Following BCR ligation, ZAP-70 underwent tyrosine phosphorylation and became associated with surface immunoglobulin and CD79b, arguing for the involvement of ZAP-70 in BCR signaling. These data indicate that expression of ZAP-70 is associated with enhanced signal transduction via the BCR complex, which may contribute to the more aggressive clinical course associated with CLL cells that express nonmutated immunoglobulin receptors.

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