Although it is well established that pre-BCR signaling governs proliferation and differentiation during B cell development, the components of the pre-BCR that are important for signaling are a matter of controversy. It has been suggested that signaling by the μ heavy chains of the pre-BCR induces survival and differentiation of pre-B cells, while the λ5 part of the pre-BCR is essential for proliferation and clonal expansion. However, the mechanism by which pre-BCR μ chains initiate differentiation signals is not clear. Using two variants of a murine B-lymphocyte cell line that differ only in surface expression of either BCR or pre-BCR, we demonstrated that surface μ chains in the pre-BCR are of the high-mannose type only, while those in the BCR are of the complex type. It is hypothesized that mannose-specific lectin-like molecules on accessory cells or in solution may function as the non-antigen ligand that triggers the pre-BCR.
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