Somatic Mutation of the Cd95 Gene in Human B Cells as a Side-Effect of the Germinal Center Reaction
Somatic hypermutation specifically modifies rearranged immunoglobulin (Ig) genes in germinal center (GC) B cells. However, the bcl-6 gene can also acquire somatic mutations during the GC reaction, indicating that certain non-Ig genes can be targeted by the somatic hypermutation machinery. The CD95 gene, implicated in negative selection of B lymphocytes in GCs, is specifically expressed by GC B cells and was recently identified as a tumor suppressor gene being frequently mutated in (post) GC B cell lymphomas. In this study, the 5′ region (5′R) and/or the last exon coding for the death domain (DD) of the CD95 gene were investigated in naive, GC, and memory B cells from seven healthy donors. About 15% of GC and memory, but not naive, B cells carried mutations within the 5′R (mutation frequency 2.5 × 10−4 per basepair). Mutations within the DD were very rare but could be efficiently selected by inducing CD95-mediated apoptosis: in 22 apoptosis-resistant cells, 12 DD mutations were found. These results indicate that human B cells can acquire somatic mutations of the CD95 gene during the GC reaction, which potentially confers apoptosis resistance and may counteract negative selection through the CD95 pathway.