A sustained activation of PI3K/NF-kappaB pathway is critical for the survival of chronic lymphocytic leukemia B cells

Leukemia. 2004 Aug;18(8):1391-400. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2403398.


The progressive rise of mature CD5+ B lymphocytes, despite the low proportion of proliferating cells, has led to the notion that B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) is primarily related to defective apoptosis. The microenvironment likely plays a prominent role because the malignant cells progressively accumulate in vivo, whereas they rapidly undergo spontaneous apoptosis when cultured in vitro. To assess microenvironment-mediated survival signals, B-CLL cells were cultured with a murine fibroblast cell line, Ltk-, with and without an agonistic antibody to CD40. Spontaneous apoptosis was associated with the loss of Akt and NF-kappaB activities. Interactions with fibroblasts sustained a basal level of Akt and NF-kappaB activities, which was dependent on phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K). Constitutive activity of the PI3K pathway in B-CLL cells when cultured with fibroblasts prevented the downregulation of the prosurvival Bcl-2 family protein Bcl-xL and the caspase inhibitor proteins FLIPL and XIAP, and consequently caspase-3 activation and apoptosis. CD40 crosslinking in B-CLL cells did not further prevent murine fibroblasts-mediated apoptosis but induced cell proliferation, which was associated with an increase of Akt and NF-kappaB activation compared with cells cultured with fibroblasts alone. The PI3K pathway seems to play a pivotal role in B-CLL cell survival and growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / enzymology
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Signal Transduction*


  • NF-kappa B
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • AKT1 protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt