The anti-apoptotic factor Bcl-2 can functionally substitute for the B cell survival but not for the marginal zone B cell differentiation activity of BAFF



The TNF family ligand B cell-activating factor (BAFF, BLyS, TALL-1) is an essential factor for B cell development. BAFF binds to three receptors, BAFF-R, transmembrane activator and CAML interactor (TACI), and B cell maturation antigen (BCMA), but only BAFF-R is required for successful survival and maturation of splenic B cells. To test whether the effect of BAFF is due to the up-regulation of anti-apoptotic factors, TACI-Ig-transgenic mice, in which BAFF function is inhibited, were crossed with transgenic mice expressing FLICE-inhibitory protein (FLIP) or Bcl-2 in the B cell compartment. FLIP expression did not rescue B cells, while enforced Bcl-2 expression restored peripheral B cells and the ability to mount T-dependent antibody responses. However, many B cells retained immaturity markers and failed to express normal amounts of CD21. Marginal zone B cells were not restored and the T-independent IgG3, but not IgM, response was impaired in the TACI-Ig×Bcl-2 mice. These results suggest that BAFF is required not only to inhibit apoptosis of maturating B cells, but also to promote differentiation events, in particular those leading to the generation of marginal zone B cells.