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Nature. 2001 Jul 19;412(6844):341-6.

Hypermutation of multiple proto-oncogenes in B-cell diffuse large-cell lymphomas.

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Institute for Cancer Genetics and the Department of Pathology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Genomic instability promotes tumorigenesis and can occur through various mechanisms, including defective segregation of chromosomes or inactivation of DNA mismatch repair. Although B-cell lymphomas are associated with chromosomal translocations that deregulate oncogene expression, a mechanism for genome-wide instability during lymphomagenesis has not been described. During B-cell development, the immunoglobulin variable (V) region genes are subject to somatic hypermutation in germinal-centre B cells. Here we report that an aberrant hypermutation activity targets multiple loci, including the proto-oncogenes PIM1, MYC, RhoH/TTF (ARHH) and PAX5, in more than 50% of diffuse large-cell lymphomas (DLCLs), which are tumours derived from germinal centres. Mutations are distributed in the 5' untranslated or coding sequences, are independent of chromosomal translocations, and share features typical of V-region-associated somatic hypermutation. In contrast to mutations in V regions, however, these mutations are not detectable in normal germinal-centre B cells or in other germinal-centre-derived lymphomas, suggesting a DLCL-associated malfunction of somatic hypermutation. Intriguingly, the four hypermutable genes are susceptible to chromosomal translocations in the same region, consistent with a role for hypermutation in generating translocations by DNA double-strand breaks. By mutating multiple genes, and possibly by favouring chromosomal translocations, aberrant hypermutation may represent the major contributor to lymphomagenesis.

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