MHC class II cell-autonomously regulates self-renewal and differentiation of normal and malignant B cells

Best known for presenting antigenic peptides to CD4+ T cells, major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC II) also transmits or may modify intracellular signals. Here, we show that MHC II cell-autonomously regulates the balance between self-renewal and differentiation in B-cell precursors, as well as in malignant B cells. Initiation of MHC II expression early during bone marrow B-cell development limited the occupancy of cycling compartments by promoting differentiation, thus regulating the numerical output of B cells. MHC II deficiency preserved stem cell characteristics in developing pro-B cells in vivo, and ectopic MHC II expression accelerated hematopoietic stem cell differentiation in vitro. Moreover, MHC II expression restrained growth of murine B-cell leukemia cell lines in vitro and in vivo, independently of CD4+ T-cell surveillance. Our results highlight an important cell-intrinsic contribution of MHC II expression to establishing the differentiated B-cell phenotype.