Objective: Clonal B-lymphocytes of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) are characterized by decreased sensitivity to programmed cell death and, therefore, they accumulate in vivo. However, these malignant cells die rapidly in vitro. In the current study we concentrated on the contribution of autologous serum (AS) and lymphocyte subsets to the survival of the malignant cells in vitro. Methods: Mononuclear cells from the peripheral blood of 26 CLL patients and 24 controls were incubated overnight in the presence or absence of AS and heat-inactivated AS (HI-AS) or fetal calf serum (FCS). Also, isolated B cells were incubated at different concentrations in the presence of AS and/or isolated T cells. The level of apoptosis of CD19+ cells was measured by flow cytometry. Results: Spontaneous apoptosis of unfractionated B-CLL cells incubated with AS, FCS or without serum was significantly lower than the rate of B-cell death in the control group, in similar culture conditions. AS had an antiapoptotic effect on unfractionated B-CLL cells when compared with FCS. The rate of apoptosis of B-CLL cells was directly associated with stage. HI of AS had a variable effect, which was related to the stage of the disease. High concentrations of B cells and the addition of autologous T cells reduced the rate of apoptosis when incubated without serum. The antiapoptotic effect of T cells was most prominent in progressive stages. Conclusions: B-CLL cells exhibit decreased spontaneous apoptosis, which is partially prevented by humoral (AS) and cellular (T cells and B-CLL cells) factors. The equilibrium between apoptotic and antiapoptotic factors changes with disease progression.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- In vitro