The hallmark (8:14) translocation of Burkitt’s lymphoma causes MYC overexpression, a primary event in the development of Burkitt’s lymphoma. While Burkitt’s lymphoma comprises nearly one third of childhood malignancies, it is rare in adults. Among many explanations is the possibility that the capacity for a lymphocyte to undergo malignant transformation by MYC activation is influenced by factors related to the developmental state of the host. To address this possibility, we used transgenic mice in which the MYC proto-oncogene is conditionally regulated via the Tetracycline Regulatory System (Tet system). When MYC was activated in cohorts of mice less than 3 weeks of age, mice universally succumbed to lymphoma within 23 weeks. However, when MYC was activated in adult mice (over 7 weeks of age) the mice failed to develop lymphoma within 50 weeks. We were not able to detect differences in the effects of MYC on the proliferation or apoptosis in lymphocytes from adult versus neonatal hosts. We next explored whether the concomitant activation of MYC with a second oncogene could induce lymphomagenesis in adult mice. When we conditionally induced both MYC and BCL2 or MYC and RAS in adult hosts, mice succumbed to lymphoma with a mean latency of 24–27 weeks. Our results suggest that in adult hosts, concurrent activation of at least two oncogenes is required for MYC to initiate tumorigenesis.

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