Rituxan, a chimeric anti-CD20 antibody, is the first antibody approved for immunotherapy in non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphoma and other B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. Additionally, efficacy of Rituxan treatment has been reported in nonmalignant autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Crosslinking of CD20 molecules by Rituxan induces therapeutic B-cell depletion. CD20 is a B-lymphocyte specific integral membrane protein, proposed to function as a store-operated calcium channel, which is activated upon receptor-stimulated calcium depletion of intracellular stores. Crosslinking of CD20 by antibodies has been reported to induce a redistribution of CD20 molecules to specialized microdomains at the plasma membrane known as lipid rafts. Here, we report that in the absence of Rituxan, CD20 exhibits a low affinity to lipid rafts. However, binding of Rituxan significantly increases the affinity of CD20 for lipid rafts resulting in its redistribution to a fraction resistant to Triton X-100 solubilization. Furthermore, we demonstrate that disturbing the raft integrity by cholesterol extraction results in dissociation of CD20 from a Triton X-100 resistant fraction followed by complete inhibition of Rituxan-induced calcium entry and apoptosis. The integrity of lipid rafts seems to play a crucial role for CD20-induced caspase activation. These data show, for the first time, that Rituxan-induced translocation of CD20 to lipid rafts is important for increased intracellular Ca(2+) levels and downstream apoptotic signalling.