MicroRNAs (miRNA) are a recently discovered class of short non-coding RNA molecules that negatively regulate gene expression. They have been shown to play a critical role in many biological functions. In humans about 320 miRNAs have been identified, some of which are expressed in a cell-specific and developmental stage-specific manner. Recently it has been shown that the expression profile of miRNAs can be used to subtype clinical cases (and cell lines) according to diagnosis with a greater degree of accuracy than traditional gene expression analysis. The identity of miRNAs associated with different lymphoma types however remains poorly defined. Previous expression studies have revealed the presence of at least two subtypes of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) representing the postulated cell of origin; those that are germinal center B cell derived (GCB-type) and those that are activated B-cell derived (ABC-type). The latter subtype has been linked with poor prognostic outcome. It is not known whether these subtypes are also defined at the miRNA level. Therefore we examined the miRNA expression profile of DLBCL cell lines of defined subtypes as well as sub-populations of B-lymphocytes by microarray analysis. Consistent with recent publications, we found that mir-19a, 19b and 17-5p (part of mir-17-92 cluster) were up-regulated in cell lines but not in normal lymphocyte populations. Furthermore, cluster analysis showed that GCB-type cell lines (SUD-HL4, SUD-HL6 & SUD-HL10) have a distinct miRNA profile from ABC-type cell lines (OCI-Ly3 & OCI-Ly10). Most notably, high levels of expression of mir-155, mir-181b and mir-325 were found in ABC-type cell lines whilst high levels of mir-181a were found in GCB-type cell lines. We looked at expression of mir-155, 181a, 143, 145, 378 and 16 in these cell lines as well as clinical cases of DLBCL by RNase-protection assay. Consistent with the microarray data, we found that mir-155 was expressed in ABC-type cell lines but not GCB-type cell lines whilst the converse was true for mir-181a. Clinical cases showed similar patterns of expression but have still to be sub-typed according to immunohistochemical markers. Although still preliminary, our data suggests that miRNA profiling may be a useful tool in predicting the subtype of DLBCL cases and hence clinical outcome.

Author notes

Corresponding author