CD20 is a 33 kDa cell surface glycosylated phosphoprotein and a member of the membrane spanning 4A gene family, being encoded by the MS4A1 gene (Tedder et al. 1988). Members of the membrane spanning family 4A share common structure characteristics and patterns of cellular expression. CD20 is also known as B-lymphocyte surface antigen B1, and Bp35 and is expressed on almost all B cells, except plasma cells. CD20 is also found to a lesser extent on some T cell subsets. It has been shown in both human and mouse that the level of CD20 expression increases with the stage of maturation of the B cell therefore showing differing amounts according to the B cell subset (Uchida et al. 2004). CD20 can be found in complexes with MHC class I, MHC II, CD53, CD81, CD82.
CD20 is important in the regulation of B cell activation and proliferation, and also in the regulation of intracellular calcium being directly involved in transmembrane calcium influx (Bubien et al. 1993). As CD20 is expressed on malignant B cells, it is consequently a target of several therapeutic agents involved in the treatment of B cell lymphomas and leukaemia.
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