During development, the stochastic process assembling the genes encoding antigen receptors invariably generates B and T lymphocytes that can recognize self-antigens. Several mechanisms have evolved to prevent the activation of these cells and the concomitant development of autoimmune disease. One such mechanism is the induction of apoptosis in developing or mature B cells by engagement of the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) in the absence of T cell help. Here we report that B lymphocytes lacking the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bim are refractory to apoptosis induced by BCR ligation in vitro. The loss of Bim also inhibited deletion of autoreactive B cells in vivo in two transgenic systems of B cell tolerance, Bim loss prevented deletion of autoreactive B cells induced by soluble self-antigen and promoted accumulation of self-reactive B cells developing in the presence of membrane-bound self-antigen, although their numbers were considerably lower compared with antigen-free mice. Mechanistically, we determined that BCR ligation promoted interaction of Bim with Bcl-2, inhibiting its survival function. These findings demonstrate that Bim is a critical player in BCR-mediated apoptosis and in B lymphocyte deletion.
- Gene knockout
- Transgenic mice