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Blood. 2001 Jun 15;97(12):3896-901.

Coexpression of BMI-1 and EZH2 polycomb-group proteins is associated with cycling cells and degree of malignancy in B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, VU University Hospital, Rm PA-001, De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Polycomb-group (PcG) proteins, such as BMI-1 and EZH2, form multimeric gene-repressing complexes involved in axial patterning, hematopoiesis, and cell cycle regulation. In addition, BMI-1 is involved in experimental lymphomagenesis. Little is known about its role in human lymphomagenesis. Here, BMI-1 and EZH2 expression patterns are analyzed in a variety of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas (B-NHLs), including small lymphocytic lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, large B-cell lymphoma, mantle-cell lymphoma, and Burkitt lymphoma. In contrast to the mutually exclusive pattern of BMI-1 and EZH2 in reactive follicles, the neoplastic cells in B-NHLs of intermediate- and high-grade malignancy showed strong coexpression of BMI-1 and EZH2. This pattern overlapped with the expression of Mib-1/Ki-67, a marker for proliferation. Neoplastic cells in B-NHL of low-grade malignancy were either BMI-1(low)/EZH2(+) (neoplastic centroblasts) or BMI-1(low)EZH2(-) (neoplastic centrocytes). These observations show that low-, intermediate-, and high grade B-NHLs are associated with increased coexpression of the BMI-1 and EZH2 PcG proteins, whose normal expression pattern is mutually exclusive. This expression pattern is probably caused by a failure to down-regulate BMI-1 in dividing neoplastic cells, because BMI-1 expression is absent from normal dividing B cells. These observations are in agreement with findings in studies of Bmi-1 transgenic mice. The extent of BMI-1/EZH2 coexpression correlated with clinical grade and the presence of Mib-1/Ki-67 expression, suggesting that the irregular expression of BMI-1 and EZH2 is an early event in the formation of B-NHL. This points to a role for abnormal PcG expression in human lymphomagenesis. (Blood. 2001;97:3896-3901)

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