This gene encodes a member of the membrane-spanning 4A gene family. Members of this nascent protein family are characterized by common structural features and similar intron/exon splice boundaries and display unique expression patterns among hematopoietic cells and nonlymphoid tissues. This gene encodes a B-lymphocyte surface molecule that plays a role in the development and differentiation of B-cells into plasma cells. This family member is localized to 11q12, among a cluster of family members. Alternative splicing of this gene results in two transcript variants that encode the same protein.
The protein has no known natural ligand and its function is to enable optimal B-cell immune response, specifically against T-independent antigens. It is suspected that it acts as a calcium channel in the cell membrane and its levels directly affect the ability of CLL cells to signal via BCR.
Immunohistochemistry can be used to determine the presence of CD20 on cells in histological tissue sections. Because CD20 remains present on the cells of most B-cell neoplasms, and is absent on otherwise similar appearing T-cell neoplasms, it can be very useful in diagnosing conditions such as B-cell lymphomas and leukaemias. However, the presence or absence of CD20 in such tumours is not relevant to prognosis, with the progression of the disease being much the same in either case. CD20 positive cells are also sometimes found in cases of Hodgkins disease, myeloma, and thymoma.
Antibody FMC7 (Flinders Medical Centre) appears to recognise a conformational variant of CD20 also known as the FMC7 antigen.
A link between the immune system's B cells and diabetes mellitus has been determined. In cases of obesity, the presence of fatty tissues surrounding the body's major organ systems results in cell necrosis and insulin desensitivity along the boundary between them. Eventually, the contents of fat cells that would otherwise have been digested by insulin are shed into the bloodstream. An inflammation response that mobilizes both T and B cells results in the creation of antibodies against these cells, causing them to become less responsive to insulin by an as-yet unknown mechanism and promoting hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, and arteriosclerosis, hallmarks of the metabolic syndrome. Obese mice administered anti-B cell CD-20 antibodies, however, did not become less responsive to insulin and as a result did not develop diabetes mellitus or the metabolic syndrome, the posited mechanism being that anti-CD20 antibodies rendered the T cell antibodies dysfunctional and therefore powerless to cause insulin desensitivity by a B cell antibody-modulated autoimmune response. The protection afforded by anti-CD-20 lasted approximately forty days—the time it takes the body to replenish its supply of B cells—after which repetition was necessary to restore it. Hence, it has been argued that diabetes mellitus be reclassified as an autoimmune disease rather than a purely metabolic one and focus treatment for it on immune system modulation.
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