The hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytoses (HLH) comprise a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by dysregulated activation of T cells and macrophages. Although some patients with HLH harbor perforin gene mutations, the cause of the remaining cases is not known. The phenotype of HLH bears a strong resemblance to X-linked lymphoproliferative disease (XLP), an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated immunodeficiency resulting from defects in SH2D1A, a small SH2 domain-containing protein expressed in T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Here it is shown that 4 of 25 male patients with HLH who were examined harbored germline SH2D1A mutations. Among these 4 patients, only 2 had family histories consistent with XLP. On the basis of these findings, it is suggested that all male patients with EBV-associated hemophagocytosis be screened for mutations in SH2D1A. Patients identified as having XLP should undergo genetic counseling, and be followed long-term for development of lymphoma and hypogammaglobulinemia.
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