EBI2 overexpression in mice leads to B1 B-cell expansion and chronic lymphocytic leukemia–like B-cell malignancies

Kristine Niss Arfelt, Line Barington, Tau Benned-Jensen, Valentina Kubale, Alexander L. Kovalchuk, Viktorija Daugvilaite, Jan Pravsgaard Christensen, Allan Randrup Thomsen, Kristoffer L. Egerod, Maria R. Bassi, Katja Spiess, Thue W. Schwartz, Hongsheng Wang, Herbert C. Morse III, Peter J. Holst and Mette M. Rosenkilde

Key Points

  • hEBI2 (GPR183) expression in mice leads to an abnormally expanded CD5+ B1a B-cell subset.

  • Mice expressing hEBI2 develop late-onset lymphomas similar to CLL.


Human and mouse chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) develops from CD5+ B cells that in mice and macaques are known to define the distinct B1a B-cell lineage. B1a cells are characterized by lack of germinal center (GC) development, and the B1a cell population is increased in mice with reduced GC formation. As a major mediator of follicular B-cell migration, the G protein–coupled receptor Epstein-Barr virus–induced gene 2 (EBI2 or GPR183) directs B-cell migration in the lymphoid follicles in response to its endogenous ligands, oxysterols. Thus, upregulation of EBI2 drives the B cells toward the extrafollicular area, whereas downregulation is essential for GC formation. We therefore speculated whether increased expression of EBI2 would lead to an expanded B1 cell subset and, ultimately, progression to CLL. Here, we demonstrate that B-cell–targeted expression of human EBI2 (hEBI2) in mice reduces GC-dependent immune responses, reduces total immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG levels, and leads to increased proliferation and upregulation of cellular oncogenes. Furthermore, hEBI2 overexpression leads to an abnormally expanded CD5+ B1a B-cell subset (present as early as 4 days after birth), late-onset lymphoid cancer development, and premature death. These findings are highly similar to those observed in CLL patients and identify EBI2 as a promoter of B-cell malignancies.

  • Submitted February 2, 2016.
  • Accepted December 2, 2016.
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