Chronic antigenic stimulation of B lymphocytes through their B-cell receptor (BCR) is thought to play an important role in the genesis of B-cell lymphomas. SAMD14/neurabin-I has been described as auto-antigenic target of primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL) BCRs. Primary vitreoretinal lymphoma (PVRL) is a rare subtype of DLBCL and can progress to PCNSL. Besides manifestation in an immunologically privileged site, PVRL and PCNSL share frequent recurrent genetic alterations like MYD88 and CD79B mutations. Both PVRL and PCNSL are considered being related to the MCD subtype of DLBCLs and may depend on chronic BCR signaling through antigenic stimulation. To investigate the role of chronic antigenic stimulation in PVRL, we cloned and expressed BCRs from PVRL patients as antibody fragments (Fabs) and tested for specific binding against common antigens.

All cases with corresponding BCR sequences were previously reported by Belhouachi et al. (Blood Adv. 2020;4(7):1357-1366). For 20 of 55 PVRL BCR sequences both immunoglobulin heavy and light chain variable region (V) genes were available. DNA clones comprising an ApaLI restriction site, the complete light chain V gene, a κ- or λ-constant region gene, a ribosome binding site, a signal sequence, the heavy chain V gene and a BstEII restriction site were ordered from GeneCust® (GeneCust, 5690 Ellange, Luxembourg) in a pUC57 vector. DNA fragments were cloned in front of a γ-1 constant region gene and a Histidine-tag into a modified pCES-1 vector for expression as Fabs. PVRL-BCRs were screened on protein macroarrays representing clones of UniPEx human cDNA expression libraries expressed in E. coli (Bioscience, Dublin, Ireland).

SEL1L3 was identified as the auto-antigenic target of the B-cell receptors in 3 out of 20 PVRL cases. None of the PVRL Fabs bound to LRPAP1 (common BCR antigen of mantle cell lymphomas), RpoC (Moraxella catarrhalis bacterial antigen and target of nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma cells) or galectin-3 (member of the lectin family). SEL1L3 is a 1132 amino acid long protein with multiple glycosylation and phosphorylation sites ( This is especially important since previously identified BCR antigens from different lymphoma entities showed post-translational modifications such as hyper-N-glycosylation or hypo-phosphorylation. Furthermore, SEL1L3 is highly expressed in the pigmented layer of the retina.

Western Blot analysis of the blood of a PVRL patient with serum antibodies against SEL1L3 showed an increased molecular weight of SEL1L3 as compared to SEL1L3 of controls. After treatment with N-acetyl-β-d-glucosaminidase or PNGase F, this difference in molecular weight disappeared, indicating a hyper N-glycosylation of SEL1L3 in PVRL patients with SEL1L3-reactive BCRs as trigger for its' immunogenicity. SEL1L3 induced proliferation of aggressive lymphoma cell lines transfected with SEL1L3-reactive BCRs. Moreover, the BCR binding epitope of SEL1L3 (aa 560 - 585) conjugated to a truncated form of Pseudomonasaeruginosa exotoxin A, killed exclusively lymphoma cells expressing BCRs with the respective reactivity.

Additionally, BCRs of a locally treated PVRL patient with serum antibodies against SEL1L3 were cloned from biopsies of the vitreous body at initial diagnosis and of a lymphoma manifestation in the breast at relapse. Both BCRs showed binding to SEL1L3 suggesting a continued dependence of the BCR on antigen stimulation.

These results suggest an important role of chronic antigenic stimulation by the post-translationally modified auto-antigen SEL1L3 in the genesis of a subgroup of patients with PVRL, might give an explanation for the selective tropism of PVRLs and provide the basis for a new treatment approach with high specificity.

Bewarder:AstraZeneca: Honoraria. Christofyllakis:AstraZeneca: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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