Signals through the B cell antigen receptor lead to a variety of cellular events such as activation, anergy, and apoptosis. B cells select these outcomes to establish and maintain self-tolerance, and to mount adequate antibody responses. However, it is not fully understood how one and the same signal causes such different consequences. In the present study, we have studied the effect of activation signals on the outcome of responses to antigen receptor ligation. Two distinct growth-promoting signals were used to activate B cells. Ligation of either RP105, a newly discovered B cell surface molecule, or the CD40 molecule, drove B cells to proliferate. Resultant blastic cells were then exposed to anti-immunoglobulin M (IgM). Blast cells that had been stimulated with anti-RP105 ceased growing and underwent apoptosis after cross-linking of surface IgM. Coligation of the Fc gamma receptor IIB with surface IgM augmented, rather than aborted, this response. In contrast to RP105-activated B cells, blast cells that had been activated by CD40 ligation were unaltered by anti-IgM. On the other hand, CD40-activated B cells became extremely susceptible to Fas-mediated apoptosis, whereas RP105-activated B cells were much less sensitive. Anti-IgM-induced apoptosis in RP105 blasts was independent of Fas, because it was demonstrable with Fas-deficient MRL-lpr/lpr mice. These results demonstrate that the nature of an initial activation signal has a great influence on the fate of activated B cells after (re)engagement of the antigen receptor. RP105, as well as CD40, may be important in this life/death decision.

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