The specialized unfolded protein response of B lymphocytes: ATF6α-independent development of antibody-secreting B cells

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Molecular immunology


B lymphocytes, like all mammalian cells, are equipped with the unfolded protein response (UPR), a complex signaling system allowing for both pro- and mal-adaptive responses to increased demands on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The UPR is comprised of three signaling pathways initiated by the ER transmembrane stress sensors, IRE1α/β, PERK and ATF6α/β. Activation of IRE1 yields XBP1(S), a transcription factor that directs expansion of the ER and enhances protein biosynthetic and secretory machinery. XBP1(S) is essential for the differentiation of B lymphocytes into antibody-secreting cells. In contrast, the PERK pathway, a regulator of translation and transcription, is dispensable for the generation of antibody-secreting cells. Functioning as a transcription factor, ATF6α can augment ER quality control processes and drive ER expansion, but the potential role of this UPR pathway in activated B cells has not been investigated. Here, we report studies of ATF6α-deficient B cells demonstrating that ATF6α is not required for the development of antibody-secreting cells. Thus, when B cells are stimulated to secrete antibody, a specialized UPR relies exclusively on the IRE1-XBP1 pathway to remodel the ER and expand cellular secretory capacity.

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