The B cell antigen receptor (BCR) is a signaling complex that mediates the differentiation of stage-specific cell fate decisions in B lymphocytes. While several studies have shown differences in signal transduction components as being key to contrasting phenotypic outcomes, little is known about the differential BCR-triggered gene transcription downstream of the signaling cascades.
Here we define the transcriptional changes that underlie BCR-induced apoptosis and proliferation of immature and mature B cells, respectively. Comparative genome-wide expression profiling identified 24 genes that discriminated between the early responses of the two cell types to BCR stimulation. Using mice with a conditional Myc-deletion, we validated the microarray data by demonstrating that Myc is critical to promoting BCR-triggered B-cell proliferation. We further investigated the Myc-dependent molecular mechanisms and found that Myc promotes a BCR-dependent clonal expansion of mature B cells by inducing proliferation and inhibiting differentiation.
This work provides the first comprehensive analysis of the early transcriptional events that lead to either deletion or clonal expansion of B cells upon antigen recognition, and demonstrates that Myc functions as the hub of a transcriptional network that control B-cell fate in the periphery.