Key Points

  • In primary germinal center (GC) B cells, OBF1 bind to genes important for GCs, including the key regulators BCL6 and FOXO1.

  • OBF1 maintains proliferation of GC-derived lymphoma cells and is a master regulator controlling the GC program.

OBF1 is a specific coactivator of the POU family transcription factors OCT1 and OCT2. OBF1 and OCT2 are B cell-specific and indispensable for germinal center (GC) formation, but their mechanism of action is unclear. Here, we show by ChIP-seq that OBF1 extensively colocalizes with OCT1 and OCT2. We found that these factors also often colocalize with transcription factors of the ETS family. Furthermore, we showed that OBF1, OCT2 and OCT1 bind widely to the promoters or enhancers of genes involved in GC formation in mouse and human GC B cells. shRNA knockdown experiments demonstrated that OCT1, OCT2 and OBF1 regulate each other and are essential for proliferation of GC-derived lymphoma cell lines. OBF1 downregulation disrupts the GC transcriptional program: genes involved in GC maintenance -such as BCL6- are downregulated, while genes related to exit from the GC program -such as IRF4- are upregulated. Ectopic expression of BCL6 does not restore the proliferation of GC-derived lymphoma cells depleted of OBF1 unless IRF4 is also depleted, indicating that OBF1 controls an essential regulatory node in GC differentiation.

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