Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a malignancy of unknown pathogenesis. The malignant Hodgkin and Reed/Sternberg (HRS) cells derive from germinal center B cells (or rarely, T cells) but have a heterogeneous and largely uncharacterized phenotype. Using microarrays, we compared the gene expression profile of four HL cell lines with profiles of the main B cell subsets and B cell non-HLs to find out whether HRS cells, despite their described heterogeneity, show a distinct gene expression, to study their relationship to other normal and malignant B cells, and to identify genes aberrantly or overexpressed by HRS cells. The HL lines indeed clustered as a distinct entity, irrespective of their B or T cell derivation, and their gene expression was most similar to that of EBV-transformed B cells and cell lines derived from diffuse large cell lymphomas showing features of in vitro–activated B cells. Twenty-seven genes, most of which were previously unknown to be expressed by HRS cells, showed aberrant expression specifically in these cells, e.g., the transcription factors GATA-3, ABF1, EAR3, and Nrf3. For five genes, expression in primary HRS cells was confirmed. The newly identified HL-specific genes may play important roles in the pathogenesis of HL, potentially represent novel diagnostic markers, and can be considered for therapeutic targeting.
Ralf Küppers, Ulf Klein, Ines Schwering, Verena Distler, Andreas Bräuninger, Giorgio Cattoretti, Yuhai Tu, Gustavo A. Stolovitzky, Andrea Califano, Martin-Leo Hansmann, Riccardo Dalla-Favera