Background: CD20 is a cell surface protein exclusively expressed on B cells. It is a clinically validated target for Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL) and autoimmune diseases. The B cell receptor (BCR) plays an important role for development and proliferation of pre-B and B cells. Physical interaction of CD20 with BCR and components of the BCR signaling cascade has been reported but the consequences are not fully understood.
Methodology: In this study we employed antibodies against CD20 and against the BCR to trigger the respective signaling. These antibodies induced very similar expression patterns of up- and down-regulated genes in NHL cell lines indicating that CD20 may play a role in BCR signaling and vice versa. Two of the genes that were rapidly and transiently induced by both stimuli are CCL3 and CCL4. 4 hours after stimulation the concentration of these chemokines in culture medium reaches a maximum. Spleen tyrosine kinase Syk is a cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase and a key component of BCR signaling. Both siRNA mediated silencing of Syk and inhibition by selective small molecule inhibitors impaired CCL3/CCL4 protein induction after treatment with either anti-CD20 or anti-BCR antibodies.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that treatment with anti-CD20 antibodies triggers at least partially a BCR activation-like response in NHL cell lines.