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Am J Surg Pathol. 2007 Jan;31(1):106-12.

Expression of TRAF1 and nuclear c-Rel distinguishes primary mediastinal large cell lymphoma from other types of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

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Department of Pathology, Brigham & Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMLBCL) is a recently identified subtype of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) that is difficult to distinguish from other types of DLBCL on the basis of histologic features alone. We recently identified a molecular signature of PMLBCL that is distinct from other forms of DLBCL but shares features with classical Hodgkin lymphoma. This signature includes activation of the nuclear factor kappaB (NFkappaB) signaling pathway, which in part, acts through nuclear translocation of c-Rel containing NFkappaB transcriptional complexes, and subsequent expression of NFkappaB target genes such as tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor-1 (TRAF1). Using standard immunohistochemical techniques, we examined 251 large B-cell lymphomas (78 cases of PMLBCL and 173 cases of other types of DLBCL) to determine whether the expression patterns of c-Rel and TRAF1 could reliably distinguish between PMLBCL and other types of DLBCL. Robust nuclear c-Rel was present in 31 of 48 (65%) cases of PMLBCL and 28 of 160 (18%) cases of DLBCL. In addition, cytoplasmic TRAF1 expression was seen in 48 of 78 (62%) cases of PMLBCL, but only 20 of 173 (12%) cases of DLBCL. Finally, the combined expression of nuclear c-Rel and TRAF1 was seen in 24 of 45 cases (53%) of PMLBCL, but in only 3 of 156 cases (2%) of other types of DLBCL. Thus, the combined nuclear localization of c-Rel and the cellular expression of TRAF1 is a highly specific (specificity=98%) means to distinguish PMLBCL from DLBCL that is readily applicable to routine surgical pathology practice.

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