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The Innate Mononuclear Phagocyte Network Depletes B Lymphocytes through Fc Receptor–dependent Mechanisms during Anti-CD20 Antibody Immunotherapy

Journal of Experimental Medicine
The Rockefeller University Press
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1084/jem.20040119
  • Article
  • Medicine


Anti-CD20 antibody immunotherapy effectively treats non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and autoimmune disease. However, the cellular and molecular pathways for B cell depletion remain undefined because human mechanistic studies are limited. Proposed mechanisms include antibody-, effector cell–, and complement-dependent cytotoxicity, the disruption of CD20 signaling pathways, and the induction of apoptosis. To identify the mechanisms for B cell depletion in vivo, a new mouse model for anti-CD20 immunotherapy was developed using a panel of twelve mouse anti–mouse CD20 monoclonal antibodies representing all four immunoglobulin G isotypes. Anti-CD20 antibodies rapidly depleted the vast majority of circulating and tissue B cells in an isotype-restricted manner that was completely dependent on effector cell Fc receptor expression. B cell depletion used both FcγRI- and FcγRIII-dependent pathways, whereas B cells were not eliminated in FcR common γ chain–deficient mice. Monocytes were the dominant effector cells for B cell depletion, with no demonstrable role for T or natural killer cells. Although most anti-CD20 antibodies activated complement in vitro, B cell depletion was completely effective in mice with genetic deficiencies in C3, C4, or C1q complement components. That the innate monocyte network depletes B cells through FcγR-dependent pathways during anti-CD20 immunotherapy has important clinical implications for anti-CD20 and other antibody-based therapies.

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