Human leukocyte antigens (HLA) class II antigen-mediated apoptosis has been documented in antigen-presenting cells and B lymphoproliferations. Characteristics of the apoptosis include rapidity and selectivity for mature cells. Follicular lymphomas are particularly refractory to apoptosis. The B-cell lymphoma Ramos shares characteristics of this subgroup and is insensitive to apoptosis via simple HLA-DR engagement. However, oligomerization of HLA-DR antigens induced caspase activation followed by phosphatidylserine externalization, activation of PKC-delta and cleavage of nuclear lamin B. Mitochondrial injury was also detected. However, inhibition of caspase activation simply delayed the apoptotic phenotype but neither protected against cell death nor prevented mitochondrial injury. The data in this report demonstrate that the requirements for the initiating signal (oligomerization versus engagement) as well as the molecular pathways varies between different B lymphoproliferations despite their common expression of HLA-DR. Finally, blockade of caspase activation in parallel with HLA-DR mAb stimulation could provide a potent autovaccination stimulus by leading to necrotic death of B-cell lymphomas.