Key Points

  • The mutational landscape of GZL in the thymic niche resembles that of EBV cHL and PMBCL, suggesting a shared cell of origin.

  • GZLs occurring outside of the thymic niche have a distinct mutational profile, with a subset of cases carrying TP53 and BCL2 mutations.

Abstract

The mutational landscape of gray zone lymphoma (GZL) has not yet been established, and differences from related entities are largely unknown. Here, we studied coding sequence mutations of 50 Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-negative GZLs and 20 polymorphic EBV+ diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) not otherwise specified (poly-EBV-L) in comparison with classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL), primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL), and DLBCL. Exomes of 21 GZL and 7 poly-EBV-L cases, along with paired constitutional DNA, were analyzed as a discovery cohort, followed by targeted sequencing of 217 genes in an extension cohort of 29 GZL and 13 poly-EBV-L cases. GZL cases with thymic niche involvement (anterior mediastinal mass) exhibited a mutation profile closely resembling cHL and PMBCL, with SOCS1 (45%), B2M (45%), TNFAIP3 (35%), GNA13 (35%), LRRN3 (32%), and NFKBIA (29%) being the most recurrently mutated genes. In contrast, GZL cases without thymic niche involvement (n = 18) had a significantly distinct pattern that was enriched in mutations related to apoptosis defects (TP53 [39%], BCL2 [28%], BIRC6 [22%]) and depleted in GNA13, XPO1, or NF-κB signaling pathway mutations (TNFAIP3, NFKBIE, IKBKB, NFKBIA). They also exhibited more BCL2/BCL6 rearrangements compared with thymic GZL. Poly-EBV-L cases presented a distinct mutational profile, including STAT3 mutations and a significantly lower coding mutation load in comparison with EBV GZL. Our study highlights characteristic mutational patterns in GZL associated with presentation in the thymic niche, suggesting a common cell of origin and disease evolution overlapping with related anterior mediastinal lymphomas.

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