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BCR Signaling

Written/Edited by Julian Pampel, BSc

B cell receptor (BCR) signaling is essential for B cell survival and development as well as antibody production under physiological and pathological conditions. Antigen-driven priming signaling is important for the initiation of B cell activation and differentiation into antibody-secreting cells. On the other hand, tonic BCR signaling is required for B cell survival and development whereas chronic signaling is essential for the proliferation of B cell lymphoma cells.

Stimulation of the BCR by antigen engagement initiates receptor clustering leading to phosphorylation of CD79 and CD19 by tyrosine protein kinase Lyn (LYN). The Protein kinase Syk (SYK) binds to phospho-tyrosine residues within the CD79 ITAM domain and is activated. Adaptor proteins such as BLNK, BCAP (PIK3AP1), LAB (LAT2), and GRB2 associate with phospho-tyrosines outside the ITAM on CD79. BLNK and BCAP are also phosphorylated by SYK. Phosphoryated BCAP and CD19 attract the regulatory subunit p85 which results in the activation of catalytic p110 PI3Kδ (PIK3CD). Conversion of phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) to Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PIP3) by the activated kinase then attracts PH domain containing proteins such as AKT, BTK, PLCγ2 (PLCG2), and Vav (VAV1) to the plasma membrane. Phoshporylated BLNK act as a scaffold for membrane-associated kinases BTK and PLCγ2 (PLCG2), thus facilitating their activation. This catalyzes activation of downstream NF-κB and JNK signaling through the CBM signalosome and activation of ERK signaling. In addition, Vav (VAV1) activation leads to p38 signaling and cytoskeletal rearrangement and Akt signaling leading to activation of mTORC1 and inhibition of FoxO.

BCR antigen engagement also leads the activation to Ca2+ dependent pathways. Activated phospholipase C-γ (PLCG2) hydrolyzes phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (IP2) to the second messenger 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3). This leads to Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R) mediated release of Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Upon depletion of the ER Ca2+ store additional Ca2+ enters the cell through the CRAC Channel (ORAI1), further increasing the concentration of cytoplasmic Ca2+ which is bound by Calmodulin (CaM). Ca2+ dependent signaling causes dephosphorylation nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) by Calcineurin and subsequently translocation into the nucleus and activation of NFAT promotors.

In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and the search for therapeutic approaches, the BCR signaling pathway is increasingly being scrutinized. Epitopes of BCR as well as TCR change in the course of a COVID-19 infection and remain persistent even after the infection had subsided. Several loci are unique to COVID-19 infection indicating their SARS-CoV-2 specificity. Further understanding of B cell mechanisms has potential clinical utility in COVID-19 immunotherapies.

Additional Resources:


  1. Efremov, Turkalj, Laurenti: "Mechanisms of B Cell Receptor Activation and Responses to B Cell Receptor Inhibitors in B Cell Malignancies." in: Cancers, Vol. 12, Issue 6, (2020) (PubMed).
  2. Turvey, Durandy, Fischer, Fung, Geha, Gewies, Giese, Greil, Keller, McKinnon, Neven, Rozmus, Ruland, Snow, Stepensky, Warnatz: "The CARD11-BCL10-MALT1 (CBM) signalosome complex: Stepping into the limelight of human primary immunodeficiency." in: The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, Vol. 134, Issue 2, pp. 276-84, (2014) (PubMed).
  3. Allen, Talab, Slupsky: "Targeting B-cell receptor signaling in leukemia and lymphoma: how and why?" in: International journal of hematologic oncology, Vol. 5, Issue 1, pp. 37-53, (2016) (PubMed).
  4. Allsup, Kamiguti, Lin, Sherrington, Matrai, Slupsky, Cawley, Zuzel: "B-cell receptor translocation to lipid rafts and associated signaling differ between prognostically important subgroups of chronic lymphocytic leukemia." in: Cancer research, Vol. 65, Issue 16, pp. 7328-37, (2005) (PubMed).
  5. Wen, Su, Tang, Le, Zhang, Zheng, Liu, Xie, Li, Ye, Dong, Cui, Miao, Wang, Dong, Xiao, Chen, Wang: "Immune cell profiling of COVID-19 patients in the recovery stage by single-cell sequencing." in: Cell discovery, Vol. 6, pp. 31, (2020) (PubMed).


  • (6)Akimzhanov and Boehning et al.: "IP3R function in cells of the immune system" . Wiley Online Library (2012).

BCR Signaling

Erk Signaling

PI3K/Akt Signaling

GSK3b - GSK3 beta:

INPP5D (Inositol Polyphosphate-5-Phosphatase, 145kDa):

PTEN (Phosphatase and Tensin Homolog):

PTPN11 (Protein tyrosine Phosphatase, Non-Receptor Type 11):

GAB2 (GRB2-Associated Binding Protein 2):

PIK3AP1 (phosphoinositide-3-Kinase Adaptor Protein 1):

PIK3CD (Phosphoinositide-3-Kinase, Catalytic, delta Polypeptide):

NF-kB Signaling

NFKB1 (Nuclear Factor of kappa Light Polypeptide Gene Enhancer in B-Cells 1):

IKBKG (Inhibitor of kappa Light Polypeptide Gene Enhancer in B-Cells, Kinase gamma):

IKBKB (Inhibitor of kappa Light Polypeptide Gene Enhancer in B-Cells, Kinase beta):

CARD11 (Caspase Recruitment Domain Family, Member 11):

MALT1 (Mucosa Associated Lymphoid Tissue Lymphoma Translocation Gene 1):

mTor Signaling

Ca2+ dependent Signaling

PPP3R1 (Protein Phosphatase 3, Regulatory Subunit B, alpha):

PPP3CC (Protein Phosphatase 3, Catalytic Subunit, gamma Isozyme):

PPP3CB (Protein Phosphatase 3, Catalytic Subunit, beta Isozyme):

PPP3CA (Protein Phosphatase 3, Catalytic Subunit, alpha Isoform):

Stim2 (Stromal Interaction Molecule 2):

STIM1 (Stromal Interaction Molecule 1):

NFAT1 (Nuclear Factor of Activated T-Cells, Cytoplasmic, Calcineurin-Dependent 2):

ITPR3 (Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate Receptor, Type 3):

ORAI1 (ORAI Calcium Release-Activated Calcium Modulator 1):

MAP Kinase Signaling

MAP3K7 (Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinase Kinase 7):

P38 Signaling

MAPK14 (Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 14):

MAPK13 (Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 13):

MAPK12 (Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 12):

MAPK11 (Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 11):

JNK Signaling

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