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Hum Pathol. 1999 Apr;30(4):403-11.

Bcl-6 expression in reactive follicular hyperplasia, follicular lymphoma, and angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma with hyperplastic germinal centers: heterogeneity of intrafollicular T-cells and their altered distribution in the pathogenesis of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma.

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Department of Diagnostic Pathology, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.



The Bcl-6 gene product, a nuclear phosphoprotein, is expressed independently of Bcl-6 gene rearrangement. In lymph nodes, expression of Bcl-6 protein is restricted to germinal center (GC) B-cells and 10% to 15% of CD3/CD4+ intrafollicular T cells. Interfollicular cells are negative for Bcl-6 protein, except for rare CD3+/CD4+ T cells. Recently, we reported cases of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) with hyperplastic GCs (AITL/GC), and observed that borders of enlarged GCs were ill defined, with features suggestive of an outward migration of GC cells to surrounding interfollicular zones. This prompted a study of follicular borders with Bcl-6 staining in reactive follicular hyperplasias and follicular lymphomas to compare with AITL/GC.


Formalin-fixed paraffin sections were used for immunostaining of Bcl-6. Six cases of AITL/GC, 12 nonspecific reactive follicular hyperplasia (FH), 7 HIV adenopathy, 10 follicular lymphoma (FL), and 8 typical AITL (ie, AITL without GC) were studied. Double staining for Bcl-6/CD20, Bcl-6/CD3, and Bcl-6/CD57 was performed in selected cases.


In FH and HIV adenopathy, staining for Bcl-6 revealed densely populated GCs with well-defined and regular GC borders, whereas Bcl-6+ cells were rare in the interfollicular areas. An occasional GC with an ill-defined border was invariably surrounded by a broad mantle zone; those with indistinct mantle zones had well-defined, regular borders. In FL, follicles were densely populated, and their borders were irregular, with some Bcl-6+ cells in the interfollicular zones. In AITL/GC, GCs were less dense, GC borders were ill defined and irregular, and the number of interfollicular Bcl-6+ cells was markedly increased. Double staining revealed that these interfollicular Bcl-6+ cells in AITL/GC were Bcl6+/CD3+/CD20-/CD57- T cells. Moreover, CD3+ intrafollicular T cells were depleted in AITL/GC, whereas they were abundant in FH. Intrafollicular CD57+ cells did not stain for Bcl-6, and were also depleted in AITL/GC. In typical AITL, some neoplastic cells were positive for Bcl-6, showing variable degrees of staining.


(1) GCs of AITL/GC differed from those of other reactive follicular hyperplasias and follicular lymphomas, and staining for Bcl-6 was useful to discern them. (2) Intrafollicular CD3+ T cells, many of which were also positive for Bcl-6, were markedly depleted in AITL/GC, with increased interfollicular Bcl-6+/CD3+ cells, suggesting an outward migration of intrafollicular T cells in this condition. (3) Interfollicular Bcl-6+/CD3+ cells in AITL/GC were too numerous to be accounted for by migration alone, suggesting local proliferation. (4) Intrafollicular CD57+ cells were negative for Bcl-6, indicating heterogeneity of the intrafollicular T-cell population. (5) Some neoplastic cells in AITL stained for Bcl-6, suggesting up-regulation of Bcl-6 expression in this tumor.

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