This research proposal aims to elucidate the mechanisms by which constitutive activation of the nuclear factor-?B (NF-?B) transcription factor complex contributes to the oncogenic transformation of mature B lymphocytes. The majority of B-cell cancers originate from antigen-activated mature B cells that have undergone the germinal center (GC) reaction to generate memory B cells and plasma cells, and the development of several lymphoma subtypes has been linked to the oncogenic transformation of the precursors of memory B cells or plasma cells. Notably, these tumors frequently harbor genetic mutations in NF-?B pathway components that result in the constitutive activation of NF-?B signaling, thus identifying NF-?B as a critical player in GC- lymphomagenesis. These observations underscore the need to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which NF-?B contributes to the transformation of the tumor precursor cells. NF-?B activation can occur via two different routes, the canonical and the alternative pathways, mediated by specific NF-?B subunits. We have obtained preliminary evidence suggesting that differential activation of the two NF-?B pathways is involved in memory B-cell versus plasma cell differentiation during the GC reaction. Despite extensive knowledge about the biology of NF-?B, its potential function in the differentiation of GC B cells is a novel concept that has not been explored. The objective of the proposed research is to determine the mechanisms by which the two NF-?B pathways and their respective subunits affect the cellular differentiation of memory B-cell and plasma cell precursors in order to understand the biological consequences of a constitutive activation of these pathways in B-cell cancers. Our central hypothesis is that constitutive activation of NF-?B signaling contributes to the pathogenesis of B-cell tumors by disrupting the transcriptional mechanisms that regulate the differentiation of a GC B cell into a memory B cell or a plasma cell. To accomplish the objective of this application, we will define the roles of the separate NF-?B pathways in the differentiation of GC B cells in vivo using conditional mouse models. In addition, we will identify the biological programs controlled by the canonical and the alternative NF-?B pathways in differentiating native GC B cells and in GC-derived tumors of various developmental stages by performing a genome-wide identification of the transcriptional targets. We will also start to determine the extent to which NF-?B is involved in lymphoma pathogenesis in vivo. The rationale for the proposed research is that elucidating the role of the separate NF-?B pathways in GC B-cell differentiation and dissecting the contribution of each pathway to GC-lymphomagenesis will lead to the identification of new prognostic and/or diagnostic markers. Moreover, the results may provide the basis for developing innovative anti-cancer therapies that could reduce the adverse systemic side effects associated with the pharmacological inhibition of the entire NF-?B pathway by specifically targeting constitutive NF-?B signaling at the level of i.) the separate NF-?B pathways, ii.) the individual NF-?B subunits, or iii.) the specific transcriptional targets.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research is relevant to public health because Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphomas as well as multiple myeloma, the majority of which shows constitutive NF-?B activation, often have an unfavorable prognosis and their treatment represents a major challenge for medicine. The rationale for the proposed research is that once the biology of NF-?B in the pathogenesis of B-cell malignancies is known, there will be a basis for developing innovative therapies against lymphoid cancer that are aimed at inhibiting NF-?B. Thus, the proposed research is relevant to the mission of the NIH pertaining to the understanding of the causes of cancer and the subsequent development of effective treatments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular Oncogenesis Study Section (MONC)
Program Officer
Howcroft, Thomas K
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Columbia University (N.Y.)
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
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Milanovic, Maja; Heise, Nicole; De Silva, Nilushi S et al. (2017) Differential requirements for the canonical NF-?B transcription factors c-REL and RELA during the generation and activation of mature B cells. Immunol Cell Biol 95:261-271
De Silva, Nilushi S; Anderson, Michael M; Carette, Amanda et al. (2016) Transcription factors of the alternative NF-?B pathway are required for germinal center B-cell development. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:9063-8
De Silva, Nilushi S; Silva, Kathryn; Anderson, Michael M et al. (2016) Impairment of Mature B Cell Maintenance upon Combined Deletion of the Alternative NF-?B Transcription Factors RELB and NF-?B2 in B Cells. J Immunol 196:2591-601
De Silva, Nilushi S; Klein, Ulf (2015) Dynamics of B cells in germinal centres. Nat Rev Immunol 15:137-48
Klein, Ulf; Heise, Nicole (2015) Unexpected functions of nuclear factor-?B during germinal center B-cell development: implications for lymphomagenesis. Curr Opin Hematol 22:379-87
Heise, Nicole; De Silva, Nilushi S; Silva, Kathryn et al. (2014) Germinal center B cell maintenance and differentiation are controlled by distinct NF-?B transcription factor subunits. J Exp Med 211:2103-18