LRF (Leukemia/Lymphoma Related Factor, also known as Pokemon, FBI-1, OCZF and ZBTB7a) was originally identified as an interaction partner of the oncoprotein BCL6. LRF can act as a proto-oncogene by repressing the tumor suppressor ARF and cooperates with BCL6 in MEF (mouse embryonic fibroblasts) immortalization. It is highly expressed in human Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) cases, in the pathogenesis of which BCL6 is known to be involved (Maeda et al. Nature 2005). Inducible inactivation of the LRF gene in mouse Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs) results in complete block of early B cell development at the HSC/progenitor stages and concomitant development of double positive (DP) T cells in the bone marrow (BM) (Maeda et al. Science 2007). While these findings clearly illustrate key roles of LRF in normal and malignant B cell development, it is not fully identified as to which B cell stages LRF is required during normal B cell development. To elucidate the role of LRF in B cells in vivo, we established and characterized B cell-specific LRF conditional knockout (KO) mice. We took advantage of mb-1 Cre knock-in mice, in which Cre expression is restricted to the B cells after the ProB cell stage. B cell compartments in the BM (PreProB, ProB, PreB and immatureB) are grossly normal in LRFF/ Fmb1-Cre mice. The LRF gene was efficiently eliminated in BM CD19+ B cells revealed by quantitative real-time PCR assay. Furthermore, LRF protein was not detected in purified CD19+ B cells, but seen in CD19-non-B cells, confirming the specific inactivation of the LRF gene in B cells. Thus, despite its critical role at the HSC/progenitor stages, LRF was found to be dispensable for the survival of normal BM B cells. These findings are consistent with the fact that GSI treatment (Maeda et al. Science 2007) or Notch1 loss (Lee and Maeda, unpublished) rescues the defects in early B cell development seen in LRFF/FMx1-Cre+ mice. Notch signaling is necessary for the transitional B cells to commit to the marginal zone B cells (MZB). Inactivation of the component of the Notch pathways in mice results in no MZB development. On the contrary, deletion of the MINT/SHARP gene, a suppressor of Notch signaling, leads to increase of MZB cells and concomitant reduction of follicular B (FOB) cells, indicating that Notch induces MZB cell fate at the transitional B cell stage. Given that LRF is a potent Notch suppressor at the HSC/progenitor stages, we hypothesized that LRF opposes Notch pathway in mature B cells as well. To test this hypothesis, we characterized mature B cell development in LRFF/Fmb1-Cre mice. While transitional B cells were largely unaffected in LRFF/Fmb1-Cre mice, we observed a slight but statistically significant reduction of follicular (FO) B cells (B220+CD19+AA4.1-CD1d-CD23+) and concomitant increase of MZB cells (B220+CD19+AA4.1-CD1d+CD23-) as seen in MINT/SHARP knockout mice. Thus, LRF may also oppose Notch pathways at the branching point for the FOB vs. MZB fate decision. Finally, to determine the role of LRF in Germinal Center (GC) formation in vivo, we characterized secondary lymphoid organs of LRFF/Fmb1-Cre mice after antigen stimulation. Both spleen and Peyer’s Patches were analyzed two weeks after immunization with Chicken Gamma Globulin (NP-CGG). While a GC reaction was robustly induced in control mice upon immunization, GC formation was significantly impaired in LRFF/Fmb1-Cre mice as revealed by immuno-histochemical analysis (IHC) and FACS. Only few GC cells (B220+CD19+FAS+CD38-PNA+) were observed in spleens, and the absolute numbers of GC cells were drastically reduced in LRFF/Fmb1-Cre mice. Residual LRF-deficient GC B cells were mostly negative for CXCR4, which is predominantly expressed in proliferating centroblasts within GCs, suggesting that LRF-deficient GC B cells may have defects in cellular proliferation in response to antigen stimuli. Our data indicates that LRF plays key roles in mature B cell development in the secondary lymphoid organs, but dispensable for the maintenance of early BM B cells.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes

Corresponding author