Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia (WM) is an incurable B-cell malignancy characterized by bone marrow (BM) infiltration with a spectrum of clonally related cells, including small lymphocytes and lymphoplasmacytic cells (CD19+) as well as mature plasma cells (CD138+). The molecular pathogenesis of the disease remains to be defined. We therefore analyzed the gene expression profiles of CD19+ and CD138+ BM mononuclear cells from 30 untreated patients with WM and compared their gene expression profile to their normal counterparts from 10 healthy donors using Affymetrix microarrays (U133 plus 2.0). Since the microenvironment plays an important role in the pathogenesis of WM, we also profiled and compared gene expression profiling for CD19 and CD138 depleted BM mononuclear cells from the same patients and healthy donors. Gene expression analysis was performed using dChip software. Unsupervised hierarchical cluster analysis demonstrated distinct gene expression patterns between WM cells versus their normal counterparts. In supervised hierarchical cluster analysis selecting for genes with > 2 fold change in expression and a False discovery Rate (FDR) < 2%, a set of 1171, 582 and 360 genes were found to be differentially expressed between WM patient and healthy donor CD19+, CD138+, as well as CD19/CD138 depleted (microenvironmental) cells, respectively. Among the most significantly over-expressed genes in the CD19+ compartment in WM patients were: BCL2, TNFRSF13B, TNFRSF17, IGLL1, CCR2, CLLU1, whilst the AP1 family genes JUND and FOSB were among the most significantly down-regulated genes in both CD19+ and CD138+ cells in WM patients. Other interesting transcripts which were over-expressed in CD138+ cells from WM patients included those from genes involved in transcription regulation (ZKSCAN1, ZMYM1, ZNF189, ZNF19, and ZNF559) and interferon response (IFI16 and IFIH1). Of considerable interest was our observation that microenvironmental cells in WM patients demonstrated an overactive transcriptional profile composed of genes which are associated with immune and inflammatory responses including the Toll like receptors (TLR 1,5,7,8), interferon and cytokines (IFI16, IFNAR1, IL-10R, IL-8R), genes encoding extracellular matrix components (Fibronectin and Hepatocyte Growth Factor) as well as genes involved in apoptotic signaling (TNFSF10, TRAF4). These studies provide the first comprehensive molecular characterization of WM, dissecting the molecular features of the two immunophenotypically distinct populations of malignant cells, and providing for the first time evidence for a distinct molecular profile in BM microenviromental cells.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.