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Blood. 1999 Dec 1;94(11):3658-67.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells express functional CXCR4 chemokine receptors that mediate spontaneous migration beneath bone marrow stromal cells.

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Department of Medicine, the Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0663, USA.


Chemokines play a central role for lymphocyte trafficking and homing. The mechanisms that direct the tissue localization of B cells from patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) are unknown. We found that CLL B cells express functional CXCR4 receptors for the chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1), as demonstrated by receptor endocytosis, calcium mobilization, and actin polymerization assays. Moreover, CLL B cells displayed chemotaxis to this chemokine that could be inhibited by monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) against CXCR4, pertussis toxin, or Wortmannin, a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor. That this chemotaxis may be involved in the homing of CLL cells is argued by studies in which CLL B cells were cocultured with a murine marrow stromal cell line that secretes SDF-1. Within 2 hours, CLL B cells spontaneously migrated beneath such stromal cells in vitro (pseudoemperipolesis). This migration could be inhibited by pretreatment of CLL B cells with anti-CXCR4 MoAbs, SDF-1alpha, or pertussis-toxin. Furthermore, we noted strong downmodulation of CXCR4 on CLL B cells that migrated into the stromal cell layer. These findings demonstrate that the chemokine receptor CXCR4 on CLL B cells plays a critical role for heterotypic adherence to marrow stromal cells and provide a new mechanism to account for the marrow infiltration by neoplastic B cells.

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