Studies of B cell antigen receptors (BCRs) expressed by leukemic lymphocytes from patients with B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) suggest that B lymphocytes with some level of BCR structural restriction become transformed. While analyzing rearranged VHDJH and VLJL genes of 25 non–IgM-producing B-CLL cases, we found five IgG+ cases that display strikingly similar BCRs (use of the same H- and L-chain V gene segments with unique, shared heavy chain third complementarity-determining region [HCDR3] and light chain third complementarity-determining region [LCDR3] motifs). These H- and L-chain characteristics were not identified in other B-CLL cases or in normal B lymphocytes whose sequences are available in the public databases. Three-dimensional modeling studies suggest that these BCRs could bind the same antigenic epitope. The structural features of the B-CLL BCRs resemble those of mAb’s reactive with carbohydrate determinants of bacterial capsules or viral coats and with certain autoantigens. These findings suggest that the B lymphocytes that gave rise to these IgG+ B-CLL cells were selected for this unique BCR structure. This selection could have occurred because the precursors of the B-CLL cells were chosen for their antigen-binding capabilities by antigen(s) of restricted nature and structure, or because the precursors derived from a B cell subpopulation with limited BCR heterogeneity, or both.
Fabio Ghiotto, Franco Fais, Angelo Valetto, Emilia Albesiano, Shiori Hashimoto, Mariella Dono, Hideyuki Ikematsu, Steven L. Allen, Jonathan Kolitz, Kanti R. Rai, Marco Nardini, Anna Tramontano, Manlio Ferrarini, Nicholas Chiorazzi