Amino acid replacement mutations in certain CLL stereotyped B-cell receptor (BCR) immunoglobulins (IGs) at defined positions within antigen-binding sites strongly imply antigen selection. Prime examples of this are CLL subset 4 BCR IGs using IGHV4-34/IGHD5-18/IGHJ6 and IGKV2-30/IGKJ2 rearrangements. Conspicuously and unlike most CLL IGs, subset 4 IGs do not bind apoptotic cells. By testing the (auto)antigenic reactivities of subset 4 IGs toward viable lymphoid-lineage cells and specific autoantigens typically bound by IGHV4-34+ IGs, we found IGs from both subset 4 and non-subset 4 IGHV4-34-expressing CLL cases bind naïve B cells. However, only subset 4 IGs react with memory B cells. Furthermore, subset 4 IGs do not bind DNA nor i or I carbohydrate antigens, common targets of IGHV4-34-utilizing antibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus and cold agglutinin disease, respectively. Notably, we found that subset 4 IG binding to memory B lymphocytes depends on an aspartic acid at position 66 of FR3 in the rearranged IGKV2-30 gene; this amino acid residue is acquired by somatic mutation. Our findings illustrate the importance of positive and negative selection criteria for structural elements in CLL IGs and suggest that autoantigens driving normal B cells to become subset 4 CLL cells differ from those driving IGHV4-34+ B cells in other diseases.
Keywords: CD10 antigen; VK mutation; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; memory B cells; stereotyped B-cell receptor.