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Receptor revision of immunoglobulin heavy chain genes in human MALT lymphomas
  1. D Lenze1,
  2. A Greiner2,
  3. C Knörr2,
  4. I Anagnostopoulos1,
  5. H Stein1,
  6. M Hummel1
  1. 1Institute of Pathology, University Medical Center Benjamin Franklin, The Free University of Berlin, 12200 Berlin, Germany
  2. 2Institute of Pathology, University of Würzburg, 97080 Würzburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Hummel, Institute of Pathology, University Medical Center Benjamin Franklin, The Free University of Berlin, 12200 Berlin, Germany;


Background/Aims: Rearrangement of immunoglobulin gene segments, leading to B cells with functional receptors, is thought to be largely restricted to developing immature B cells in bone marrow. However, accumulating evidence suggests that mature B cells occasionally modify their antigen specificity by VH segment replacements during the germinal centre reaction to enhance antigen affinity, or to overcome self reactive antigen receptors. Although malignant B cells maintain the features of their normal counterparts in most instances, to date, such replacements have not been described for human B cell lymphomas.

Methods: Rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain genes from two extranodal marginal zone B cell lymphomas were amplified, cloned, and sequenced. Sequences with identical CDR3 regions were selected and aligned to each other and public databases.

Results: VH replacements were seen in two extranodal marginal zone B cell lymphomas. In line with the hypothesis that in mature B cells these replacements are associated with active somatic hypermutation, in addition to VH replacement, different mutation patterns were seen in the revised VH portions. In the remaining common 3′-VH regions, these mutations could be used to establish a phylogenetic relation between the sequences, rendering the possibility of artefactual chimaeric polymerase chain reaction products very unlikely.

Conclusions: These results support the view that VH replacements are a further mechanism for reshaping antigen affinity and specificity, and indicate that these receptor modifications are not restricted to normal and reactive germinal centre B cells, but may also occur in close association with the development of malignant B cell lymphomas.

  • B lymphocytes
  • VH replacement
  • immunoglobulin gene rearrangement
  • antibodies
  • FR, framework
  • Ig, immunoglobulin
  • IgH, immunoglobulin heavy chain
  • MALT, mucosa associated lymphoid tissue
  • PCR, polymerase chain reaction

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