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J Pathol. 2005 Jun;206(2):123-34.

Expression of the NF-kappaB targets BCL2 and BIRC5/Survivin characterizes small B-cell and aggressive B-cell lymphomas, respectively.

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  • 1Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas, Madrid, Spain.


Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) activation has been proposed as a cardinal feature of tumourigenesis, although the precise mechanism, frequency, relevance, and extent of NF-kappaB activation in lymphomas remain to be fully elucidated. In this study, expression profiling and tissue microarray studies of 209 and 323 non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHLs) respectively, including the most frequent sub-types of NHL, were employed to generate a hypothesis concerning the most common NF-kappaB targets in NHL. These analyses showed that NF-kappaB activation is a common phenomenon in NHL, resulting in the expression of distinct sets of NF-kappaB target genes, depending on the cell context. BCL2 and BIRC5/Survivin were identified as key NF-kappaB targets and their expression distinguished small and aggressive B-cell lymphomas, respectively. Interestingly, in the vast majority of B-cell lymphomas, the expression of these markers was mutually exclusive. A set of genes was identified whose expression correlates either with BIRC5/Survivin or with BCL2. BIRC5/Survivin expression, in contrast to BCL2, was associated with a signature of cell proliferation (overexpression of cell cycle control, DNA repair, and polymerase genes), which may contribute to the aggressive phenotype and poor prognosis of these lymphomas. Strikingly, mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia expressed highly elevated levels of BCL2 protein and mRNA, higher than that observed in reactive mantle zone cells or even in follicular lymphomas, where BCL2 expression is deregulated through the t(14;18) translocation. In parallel with this observation, BIRC5/Survivin expression was higher in Burkitt's lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma than in non-tumoural germinal centre cells. In vitro studies confirmed that NF-kappaB activation contributes to the expression of both markers. In cell lines representing aggressive lymphomas, NF-kappaB inhibition resulted in a decrease in BIRC5/Survivin expression. Meanwhile, in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)-derived lymphocytes, NF-kappaB inhibition resulted in a marked decrease in BCL2 expression.

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