Journal of Clinical Investigation

Identification of Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg cell-specific genes by gene expression profiling

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Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a malignancy of unknown pathogenesis. The malignant Hodgkin and Reed/Sternberg (HRS) cells derive from germinal center B cells (or rarely, T cells) but have a heterogeneous and largely uncharacterized phenotype. Using microarrays, we compared the gene expression profile of four HL cell lines with profiles of the main B cell subsets and B cell non-HLs to find out whether HRS cells, despite their described heterogeneity, show a distinct gene expression, to study their relationship to other normal and malignant B cells, and to identify genes aberrantly or overexpressed by HRS cells. The HL lines indeed clustered as a distinct entity, irrespective of their B or T cell derivation, and their gene expression was most similar to that of EBV-transformed B cells and cell lines derived from diffuse large cell lymphomas showing features of in vitro-activated B cells. Twenty-seven genes, most of which were previously unknown to be expressed by HRS cells, showed aberrant expression specifically in these cells, e.g., the transcription factors GATA-3, ABF1, EAR3, and Nrf3. For five genes, expression in primary HRS cells was confirmed. The newly identified HL-specific genes may play important roles in the pathogenesis of HL, potentially represent novel diagnostic markers, and can be considered for therapeutic targeting.