B cell development is critically dependent on NFATc1 activity.
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B cell development in bone marrow is a precisely regulated complex process. Through successive stages of differentiation, which are regulated by a multitude of signaling pathways and an array of lineage-specific transcription factors, the common lymphoid progenitors ultimately give rise to mature B cells. Similar to early thymocyte development in the thymus, early B cell development in bone marrow is critically dependent on IL-7 signaling. During this IL-7-dependent stage of differentiation, several transcription factors, such as E2A, EBF1, and Pax5, among others, play indispensable roles in B lineage specification and maintenance. Although recent studies have implicated several other transcription factors in B cell development, the role of NFATc1 in early B cell developmental stages is not known. Here, using multiple gene-manipulated mouse models and applying various experimental methods, we show that NFATc1 activity is vital for early B cell differentiation. Lack of NFATc1 activity in pro-B cells suppresses EBF1 expression, impairs immunoglobulin gene rearrangement, and thereby preBCR formation, resulting in defective B cell development. Overall, deficiency in NFATc1 activity arrested the pro-B cell transition to the pre-B cell stage, leading to severe B cell lymphopenia. Our findings suggest that, along with other transcription factors, NFATc1 is a critical component of the signaling mechanism that facilitates early B cell differentiation.
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