Activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) is a B cell-specific enzyme that initiates class switch recombination (CSR) and somatic hypermutation (SHM) of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes, essential mechanisms to generate different classes of antibody and antibody diversity for the antigens. At lower frequency, AID also promiscuously introduces DNA structural lesions at non-Ig loci and it is involved in the pathogenesis of B cell lymphoma. Thus, its expression is tightly controlled in B cells to limit its genotoxic effects. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) p110δ isoform acts downstream of the B-Cell Receptor (BCR) to suppress AID expression, whereas blockade of PI3K signaling enhances the expression of AID. Potent oral PI3K inhibitors such as the p110δ inhibitor idelalisib (GS-1101, CAL-101) have been recently approved for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM), whereas dual PI3K p110δ and γ inhibitors such as duvelisib (IPI-145) showed promising results for the treatment of CLL and other hematologic malignancies.

Here we investigated whether the increased of AID expression caused by idelalisib or duvelisib induced genomic instability in normal and malignant B cells.

We observed that in splenic purified mouse B cells activated with IL4 and αCD40 to induce AID expression and CSR, treatment with idelalisib and duvelisib significantly increased both AID protein and mRNA levels, compared to controls. As a result, both drugs strongly promoted CSR. The regulation of AID expression was strictly dependent on PI3K p110δ activity because a selective p110γ inhibitor (AS-604850) did not have any effect. In contrast, B cells expressing a constitutively active PI3Kδ showed suppression of CSR and reduced AID expression compared to inactive PI3Kδ.

To gain insights into the degree of genomic instability induced by increased AID expression upon PI3Kδ inhibition, we applied a genome-wide translocation technique we previously developed (High-Throughput Genomic Translocation Sequencing approach, HTGTS) to identify translocation partners from DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) introduced into the c-myc locus (Chiarle et al, Cell 2011). By HTGTS, we isolated thousands of translocations from activated primary mouse B cells distributed widely across the genome. Remarkably, in B cells treated with idelalisib or duvelisib, we identified a significantly higher number of translocations in known AID off-target genes as well as novel hotspots of translocations (48 for idelalisib, 50 for duvelisib). Unbiased genome-wide analysis of translocation formation revealed a consistency in the translocation patterns, with AID target hotspots localized in the TSS region and predominantly grouped within super-enhancers and regulatory clusters. HTGTS analysis performed on activated AID knock-out (AID KO) B cells showed that the vast majority of these translocations were dependent on AID. Hence, our data demonstrate that in normal B cells PI3Kδ inhibitors increase genomic instability by an AID-dependent mechanism.

Finally, we observed that both idelalisib and duvelisib increased AID expression in human EBV-immortalized and lymphoma cell lines (MCL and CLL). We adapted the HTGTS technique to human cells by introducing DSBs in the human myc locus by CRISPR/Cas9 technology and sequencing genome-wide the formation of chromosomal translocations. By this approach, we demonstrated that also in human neoplastic B cells the treatment with idelalisib or duvelisib increased the formation of translocations to known AID off targets.

In conclusion, we showed that idelalisib or duvelisib increase genomic instability in normal and neoplastic B cells by enhancing AID expression. Since several B cell malignancies imply treatment with these drugs for years, these effects of PI3Kδ inhibitors on the genomic stability of B cells should be carefully taken into account for therapeutic outcomes and protocol design.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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