LITAF was discovered as a p53-induced transcript that promoted TNFa secretion in monocytes in response to LPS. We previously reported that LITAF is inactivated by deletion or promoter hypermethylation in germinal center-derived B-cell lymphomas. However, the function of LITAF in B lymphocytes is unknown. Using gene expression analysis of isolated B-cell subpopulation and immunohistochemical studies of tonsil lymphoid follicles we found that LITAF is expressed in naïve B lymphocytes and is repressed within the germinal centers (GCs). Thus, LITAF showed an opposite expression to BCL6, an essential regulator of GC development and function. Likewise, expression of LITAF and BCL6 were inversely correlated in cell lines and biopsies from patients with B-cell lymphoma, further suggesting a link between LITAF and BCL6. ChIP-on-chip and ChIP-sequencing analyses of B cells coupled with luciferase reporter assays revealed that BCL6 repressed LITAF expression by binding to its promoter. Accordingly, BCL6 silencing with siRNAs or after exposure to a BCL6-inhibitor peptide increased LITAF expression, indicating that LITAF is transcriptionally repressed by BCL6 in GC B lymphocytes and in B-cell lymphoma cells. To initially elucidate the function of LITAF in B cells, gain-and-loss of function experiments were performed in different cellular models. LITAF expression was not related to TNFa secretion after LPS exposure, nor modulated cell proliferation or apoptosis in B cells. However, sustained expression of LITAF in B-cell lymphoma cells increased cell size, lysosome content and mitochondrial mass. Gene expression microarray studies defined a LITAF-related transcriptional signature containing genes involved in the regulation of endomembranes, vesicle trafficking and protein transport. Accordingly, immunofluorescence analysis co-localized LITAF with lysosomes and with autophagosomes expressing LC3, the mammalian homolog of yeast autophagy-related protein (Atg8), as well as with the lysosomal sorting-associated proteins NEDD4 and TSG101, both in normal CD19+ B lymphocytes and in B-cell lymphoma cells. In addition, LITAF expression induced autophagic activity in B cells, shown by an increase in the FL1/FL3 ratio after acridine orange staining and by converting LC3-I to LC3-II, which were more evident upon cell starvation. Together, these data suggest that LITAF may play a role in the processing of proteins in autophagosomes through regulating autophagy. To investigate LITAF function in vivo, we generated mice with targeted deletion of the Litaf gene in B lymphocytes by using the Cre-loxP system. Litaf -mb1-Cre (Litaf−/− ) mice developed healthy and showed normal distribution of hematopoietic cell subpopulations. However, Litaf−/− mice were unable to develop full T-cell dependent immune responses, presenting PNA-stained, Litaf-negative GCs that were absent or had marked reduction in size and number. Accordingly, reduced amounts of IgM, IgG1 and IgG3 antibodies as a consequence of abnormal class switch recombination (CSR) were detected in immunized mice. However, in experiments testing CSR in vitro, in which B cells are artificially activated in the absence of T cells, the amounts of IgM/IgG1/IgG3 did not differ between knock-out and control groups. Similarly, mouse immunization with a T-cell independent antigen did not induce differences in immunoglobulin production. Further studies of GCs in T-cell immunized Litaf−/− mice using an antibody for the Class II-associated invariant chain peptide (CLIP) revealed that the atrophic GCs in Litaf−/− mice showed strong CLIP expression in comparison to wild-type littermates. In normal immune responses, CLIP peptides bind to MHC class II molecules in endolysosomes, until they are displaced by the antigen, then releasing CLIP and allowing MHC II-antigen complexes to be transported to the cell membrane for T-cell presentation. The failure to develop appropriate immune responses together with the accumulation of CLIP peptides in Litaf -deficient mice indicate that Litaf is essential for adequate T-cell dependent immune responses in GC B lymphocytes, possibly through facilitating the presentation of the antigens to MHC II molecules in the endolysosomes. Once this process is assembled and the T-cell activated B lymphocytes enter the GCs, BCL6 represses LITAF to prevent additional interactions between B and T cells during BCR editing.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.