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Paired single-B-cell transcriptomics and receptor sequencing reveal activation states and clonal signatures that characterize B cells in acute myeloid leukemia

March, 03, 2024 | Select Oncology Journal Articles

Background

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is associated with a dismal prognosis. Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) to induce antitumor activity in AML patients has yielded mixed results. Despite the pivotal role of B cells in antitumor immunity, a comprehensive assessment of B lymphocytes within AML’s immunological microenvironment along with their interaction with ICB remains rather constrained.

Methods

We performed an extensive analysis that involved paired single-cell RNA and B-cell receptor (BCR) sequencing on 52 bone marrow aspirate samples. These samples included 6 from healthy bone marrow donors (normal), 24 from newly diagnosed AML patients (NewlyDx), and 22 from 8 relapsed or refractory AML patients (RelRef), who underwent assessment both before and after azacitidine/nivolumab treatment.

Results

We delineated nine distinct subtypes of B cell lineage in the bone marrow. AML patients exhibited reduced nascent B cell subgroups but increased differentiated B cells compared with healthy controls. The limited diversity of BCR profiles and extensive somatic hypermutation indicated antigen-driven affinity maturation within the tumor microenvironment of RelRef patients. We established a strong connection between the activation or stress status of naïve and memory B cells, as indicated by AP-1 activity, and their differentiation state. Remarkably, atypical memory B cells functioned as specialized antigen-presenting cells closely interacting with AML malignant cells, correlating with AML stemness and worse clinical outcomes. In the AML microenvironment, plasma cells demonstrated advanced differentiation and heightened activity. Notably, the clinical response to ICB was associated with B cell clonal expansion and plasma cell function.

Conclusions

Our findings establish a comprehensive framework for profiling the phenotypic diversity of the B cell lineage in AML patients, while also assessing the implications of immunotherapy. This will serve as a valuable guide for future inquiries into AML treatment strategies.

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