AIDS-related primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) is an HIV-associated malignancy characterized by the ability of the tumor cells to specifically home in the serous body cavities. Here we used gene expression profile analysis (about 12 000 genes) to further define the phenotype of PEL and to investigate the lymphoma relationship to normal B cells and to other tumor subtypes, including non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) of immunocompetent hosts and AIDS-associated NHL (AIDS-NHL). The results showed that PEL displayed a common gene expression profile that is clearly distinct from all NHLs of immunocompetent hosts and AIDS-NHL subtypes and, in contrast to those, is not related to germinal center (GC) or memory B cells. The gene expression profile of PEL was defined as plasmablastic because it showed features of both immunoblasts identified by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines and AIDS immunoblastic lymphoma, and plasma cells, as defined by multiple myeloma cell lines. Finally, our results identify a set of genes specifically expressed in PEL tumor cells. Their expression was validated at the protein level, suggesting their potential pathogenetic and clinical significance.
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