Immunostimulatory oligodeoxynucleotides induce apoptosis of B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells

Bernd Jahrsdörfer, James E. Wooldridge, Sue E. Blackwell, Christiana M. Taylor, Thomas S. Griffith, Brian K. Link, George J. Weiner

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Immunostimulatory oligodeoxynucleotides (IS ODN) can mediate a number of immunologic effects. We previously demonstrated that treatment of B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) cells with one class of IS ODN, CpG ODN, alters their phenotype and increases their immunogenicity. Here, we demonstrate that in contrast to the classic understanding of CpG ODN as inhibitors of B cell apoptosis, IS ODN including CpG ODN induce apoptosis in B-CLL cells. It is important that these changes are seen not only with CpG ODN but with ODN that lack the classical CpG motif. B-CLL cells from 20 subjects were treated in vitro with IS ODN for up to 7 days. IS ODN treatment resulted in increased numbers of apoptotic cells in 13 out of 20 B-CLL samples. IS ODN enhanced apoptosis in samples with 13q deletion as a single aberration and had a heterogeneous effect on apoptosis in samples with other aberrations including 17p deletion, 11q deletion, or trisomy 12. Induction of apoptosis did not correlate with expression of the CpG ODN receptor Toll-like receptor 9. Apoptosis was dependent on the activation of caspases and was accompanied by up-regulation of CD95/Fas and its ligand. We conclude that IS ODN including CpG ODN can induce apoptosis of most B-CLL samples. The ability of IS ODN to induce apoptosis differs based on cytogenetic status. Up-regulation of CD95/Fas may play a role in IS ODN-induced apoptosis of B-CLL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-387
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • B-CLL
  • Caspase
  • CpG ODN
  • Cytogenetic status


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