Studies on murine B lymphocytes showed that Bruton's tyrosine kinase mediates signal transduction induced via CD38, a nonlineage-restricted 45-kD ectoenzyme. This signaling is defective in B cells from X-linked immunodeficient mice affected with the analogue of human X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA). We performed a structural and functional analysis of CD38 in XLA and other immunodeficiencies, using EBV-immortalized B cells derived from such patients. Membrane CD38 was not significantly different from controls in structure, epitope density, enzymatic activity, and internalization upon binding of agonistic mAbs. Meanwhile, an increased release of soluble CD38 from XLA cells was observed: immunoprecipitation from XLA culture media yielded a protein of approximately 78 kD (p78), reacting also in Western blot and displaying both enzymatic activities and a peptide map similar to membrane CD38. Soluble forms and homotypic aggregations of CD38 were documented in different cell models and by crystallographic analysis of the Aplysia ADP-ribosyl cyclase, the ancestor of human CD38. p78 might represent the product of an altered turn-over of membrane CD38, a starting point for studying its association with Bruton's tyrosine kinase and its role in XLA and other B cell immunodeficiencies.


R Mallone, S Ferrua, M Morra, E Zocchi, K Mehta, L D Notarangelo, F Malavasi


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