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Exploring the Significance of CD20 Protein in B Cell Biology and Targeted Therapies


B-lymphocyte antigen CD20 (called CD20) is known as an activated-glycosylated phosphoprotein which is expressed on the surface of all B-cells. CD20 is involved in the regulation of trans-membrane Ca2+ conductance and also play critical roles in cell‐cycle progression during human B cell proliferation and activation.
Editor: Enel Alessia Last Updated: 04-Sep-2023

Structure of CD20

The CD20 protein presents a unique arrangement, featuring four membrane-spanning domains. Notably, both the amino and carboxy termini of the protein are positioned within the cytoplasm. An intriguing aspect of this structure is the existence of a short extracellular segment comprising approximately 43 residues, found between the third and fourth transmembrane regions[1]. This distinctive configuration, deeply embedded in the cell membrane, serves to prevent the shedding of antigens. Interestingly, researchers have identified "soluble forms" of CD20 circulating in the serum of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and elevated leukemic cell counts[2]. These soluble forms likely arise from microparticles containing CD20 integrated into their membrane bilayers.

In terms of sequence, human CD20 shares 73% identity with its murine counterpart. Notably, the transmembrane regions exhibit the highest degree of amino acid sequence similarity[3]. However, there are 16 amino acid differences within the extracellular domain of approximately 43 amino acids, potentially contributing to the inability of rituximab to bind to murine CD20. Within the plasma membrane, CD20 is believed to exist not as monomers but rather as components of heterogeneous supramolecular complexes, which can involve CD20 dimers or tetramers.[4]

CD20's functional connections extend beyond its own structure. It has been observed to closely associate with various proteins, including the transmembrane adapter protein p75/80, also known as C-terminal src kinase-binding protein (Cbp),[5-6] as well as CD40 and major histocompatibility complex class II proteins (MHC II)[7]. This close association implies that targeting CD20 with monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) could potentially disrupt the functions linked to CD20's partner proteins, such as CD40.

Until recently, prevailing understanding held that the extracellular loop contained only two distinct groups of epitopes. One group was recognized by the majority of CD20 mAbs (such as B1, 2H7, rituximab), which exert inhibitory effects on B-cell proliferation, while the other was acknowledged solely by the 1F5 mAb, known for its unconventional activating properties[8-12]. However, a subsequent study by Polyack et al. revealed a remarkable level of epitope diversity among CD20 mAbs. This newfound diversity could potentially account for the range of biochemical and biological effects observed in vitro with different anti-CD20 mAbs. Notably, specific amino acid residues, including alanine and proline at positions 170 and 172 respectively, are crucial in determining the epitope recognized by rituximab. Moreover, neighboring residues and the overall oligomeric complex structure appear to contribute to this epitope specificity.

Unraveling the Functions of CD20

While the precise function of CD20 remains a subject of ongoing investigation, it holds a pivotal role in the intricate world of B cell biology. Below are several established aspects of CD20's functionality:

  1. Regulation of the BCR Complex: CD20 engages with the B cell receptor (BCR) complex, potentially overseeing the modulation of BCR signaling and activity. This interaction could amplify BCR signaling, bolstering B cells in their mission to combat foreign antigens effectively.
  2. Calcium Signaling Pathway: Upon activation, CD20 exerts influence over the concentration of calcium ions within B cells. Given the pivotal role of calcium ions in cellular signal transduction, CD20 likely participates in the oversight of signal transmission and the activation process within B cells.
  3. Immunoglobulin Production: CD20 is thought to participate in the orchestration of immunoglobulin production and class switching. Various studies have highlighted CD20's ability to guide B cells in generating distinct types of immunoglobulins, thereby fine-tuning the immune response.
  4. Antibody-Dependent Cellular Cytotoxicity (ADCC): The expression of CD20 renders B cells susceptible to assault by immune cells through ADCC. Certain therapeutic interventions capitalize on this mechanism by binding antibodies to CD20, galvanizing immune cells into attacking CD20-bearing B cells. One such treatment is rituximab (Rituximab), a drug employed in lymphoma therapy.
  5. Lymphoma Therapeutic Target: CD20 has emerged as a pivotal target in the therapeutic landscape for B-cell malignant lymphoma. Numerous treatment modalities harness CD20-targeted antibodies or immunotherapy strategies to eliminate cancerous cells that express CD20.

It's important to acknowledge that while CD20 significantly influences B cell biology, its precise functional mechanisms continue to be unraveled through ongoing research. Different subsets of B cells might evoke distinct responses from CD20, and its interactions with other proteins and signaling pathways are likely to intricately mold its role.

B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) and anti-CD20 monoclonal treatments

B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) stands as a prevalent form of adult leukemia, particularly affecting individuals over the age of 65. Diagnosis entails a comprehensive approach involving clinical manifestations, physical examinations, and flow cytometry analysis to gauge the expression of surface molecules on leukemic cells. Among the commonly utilized markers are CD5, CD19, CD20, and CD23. While therapeutic strategies have traditionally focused on symptom management, recent breakthroughs have ushered in targeted treatments centered around the application of anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies.

Anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies, exemplified by rituximab and obinutuzumab, have ushered in a paradigm shift in B-CLL therapy. These antibodies home in on CD20, an antigen specific to B cells, thereby enabling the precise targeting of malignant B cells. Initiating immune responses that drive cell death, these monoclonal antibodies predominantly leverage antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) and complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) mechanisms. Rigorous clinical trials have showcased their potency in inducing remission and extending survival rates.

Rituximab, the trailblazing anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, has fundamentally elevated the outcomes of B-CLL treatment. Administered either individually or in tandem with chemotherapy, rituximab has demonstrated remarkable success in diminishing tumor burden and elevating overall response rates. Its mode of action involves binding to CD20 on B cells, effectively transmitting signals to immune cells for the targeted annihilation of cancerous entities. The triumph of rituximab has seamlessly integrated it into diverse therapeutic regimens.

Obinutuzumab, a more recent entrant among anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies, exhibits heightened ADCC and CDC attributes relative to rituximab. Its distinct glycoengineered structure enhances engagement with immune cells, culminating in a more potent eradication of cancer cells. Clinical trials have effectively showcased its efficacy across both newly diagnosed B-CLL patients and those grappling with relapsed or refractory disease. The approval of obinutuzumab has broadened the array of treatment options, emerging as a promising alternative to rituximab-centric therapies.

The advent of these anti-CD20 monoclonal treatments has orchestrated a profound transformation in the landscape of B-CLL therapy. Delivering targeted and efficacious interventions, they have propelled response rates to new heights, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes. As research endeavors forge ahead, the amalgamation of anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies with supplementary agents and personalized treatment approaches holds the potential to further amplify the management of B-CLL, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for those affected by this condition.

Deciphering the Intricate Signaling Pathways Orchestrated by CD20

The signaling pathway of CD20 is a dynamic interplay of essential processes within B cells. Despite lacking inherent signaling motifs, CD20's presence and interactions with other molecules intricately shape pivotal signaling cascades vital for optimal B cell function.

  1. Empowering B Cell Receptor (BCR) Signaling: CD20 forms intricate connections with the BCR complex, a pivotal receptor present on B cells. This interaction significantly amplifies BCR signaling, setting the stage for the activation of crucial intracellular kinases such as Lyn, Syk, and ERK. CD20's active role in bolstering BCR signaling plays a pivotal part in B cell activation and the subsequent production of antibodies when confronted with antigens.
  2. Navigating Calcium Signaling: CD20 might potentially serve as a calcium ion channel or modulator, contributing to the intricate dance of calcium flux within B cells. Given the centrality of calcium signaling in dictating diverse cellular responses like activation, proliferation, and survival, CD20's conceivable influence on calcium flux holds sway over B cell activation and downstream signaling dynamics.
  3. Unveiling Lipid Raft Co-Localization: CD20's intriguing residence within lipid rafts, specialized domains of the cell membrane enriched with signaling molecules, unveils a potentially pivotal role. This spatial co-localization hints at CD20's potential involvement in orchestrating signaling complexes and expediting the initiation of signaling cascades upon BCR activation.
  4. Fostering Crucial Protein Interactions: CD20 doesn't work in isolation, interacting with fellow proteins like CD19 and CD81, both integral to the BCR complex. These interactions seamlessly contribute to the assembly of a finely tuned BCR signaling complex, magnifying the potency of B cell activation.
  5. Influence on B Cell Survival and Differentiation: CD20's anchoring on B cells reverberates through their survival and differentiation pathways. Notably, murine models with CD20 deficiency exhibit diminished germinal center B cell numbers and compromised humoral immune responses. This compelling evidence underscores CD20's role in orchestrating B cell maturation and the crucial endeavor of antibody production.

It's paramount to acknowledge that while CD20 itself lacks direct intracellular signaling motifs, its intricate interplay with other molecules and its role in orchestrating the BCR complex wield profound effects on B cell signaling. The web of interactions that revolves around CD20 ultimately shapes B cell activation, differentiation, antibody generation, and the broader tapestry of immune response.

Beta LifeScience offers a range of products related to CD20 targets, including target proteins and reporter gene cell lines. These products are suitable for various applications such as animal immunology, CD20-targeted drug screening, functional assessment, and quality control in different stages.

CD20 Protein

Recombinant Human B-Lymphocyte Antigen Cd20 (MS4A1) Protein (His), Active


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