Identification of BLNK and BTK as mediators of rituximab-induced programmed cell death by CRISPR screens in GCB-subtype diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

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Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is characterized by extensive genetic heterogeneity, and this results in unpredictable responses to the current treatment, R-CHOP, which consists of a cancer drug combination supplemented with the humanized CD20-targeting monoclonal antibody rituximab. Despite improvements in the patient response rate through rituximab addition to the treatment plan, up to 40% of DLBCL patients end in a relapsed or refractory state due to inherent or acquired resistance to the regimen. Here, we employ a lentiviral genome-wide CRISPR library screening approach to identify genes involved in facilitating the rituximab response in cancerous B-cells. Along with the CD20-encoding MS4A1 gene, we identify genes related to B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling as mediators of the intracellular signaling response to rituximab. More specifically, the B-cell linker protein (BLNK) and Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) genes stand out as pivotal genes in facilitating direct rituximab-induced apoptosis through mechanisms that occur alongside complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC). Our findings demonstrate that rituximab triggers BCR signaling in a BLNK- and BTK-dependent manner and support the existing notion that intertwined CD20 and BCR signaling pathways in GCB-subtype DLBCL lead to programmed cell death.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Oncology
ISSN1574-7891
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jun 2020

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