We examined expression of B cell–activating factor of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family (BAFF) and a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) B cells and nurselike cells (NLCs), which differentiate from CD14+ cells when cultured with CLL B cells. NLCs expressed significantly higher levels of APRIL than monocytes and significantly higher levels of BAFF and APRIL than CLL B cells. Also, the viability of CLL B cells cultured with NLCs was significantly reduced when CLL B cells were cultured with decoy receptor of B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), which can bind both BAFF and APRIL, but not with BAFF receptor:Fc (BAFF-R:Fc), which binds only to BAFF. The effect(s) of BAFF or APRIL on leukemia cell survival appeared additive and distinct from that of stromal cell–derived factor-1α (SDF-1α), which in contrast to BAFF or APRIL induced leukemia cell phosphorylation of p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 [ERK1/2]) and AKT. Conversely, BAFF and APRIL, but not SDF-1α, induced CLL-cell activation of the nuclear factor–κB1 (NF-κB1) and enhanced CLL-cell expression of the antiapoptotic protein Mcl-1. However, BAFF, but not APRIL, also induced CLL-cell activation of NF-κB2. We conclude that BAFF and APRIL from NLCs can function in a paracrine manner to support leukemia cell survival via mechanisms that are distinct from those of SDF-1α, indicating that NLCs use multiple distinct pathways to support CLL-cell survival.

  • Submitted March 9, 2004.
  • Accepted March 28, 2005.
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