MiRNAs are a new class of small RNAs, of 19–23 nucleotides that were discovered less than two decades ago. These tiny RNAs can negatively regulate genes at the post-transcriptional level by either triggering translational repression or direct cleavage of mRNAs. It has become evident that miRNAs are involved in hematopoiesis and that the aberrant expression of miRNAs may give rise to hematopoietic malignancies. The aim of our study was to characterize the miRNA profile of naïve, germinal center and memory B cells sorted from tonsils and review expression of selected miRNAs in tonsils and in B cell malignancies by miRNA in situ hybridization (ISH). Quantitative (q)RT-PCR profiling revealed that several miRNAs were elevated in germinal center B cells, including miR-17–5p, miR-106a and miR-181b. miR-150 was one of the most abundant miRNAs in all subsets, but the expression level was more than 10 fold lower in germinal center B cell as compared to the other two subsets. MiRNA ISH on tonsillar tissue sections confirmed findings from the profiling work, and at the same time depicted differences in staining intensities within germinal centers. According to miRNA ISH, expression levels of miR-17-5p, miR-106a, and miR-181b were indeed higher in germinal center B cells as compared to naïve and memory B cells in the mantle zone. Surprisingly, we also observed gradual decrease of miR-17-5p, miR-106a, and miR-181b staining from dark to light zone in the germinal centers. Moreover, miRNA ISH with a probe for miR-150 demonstrated an interesting staining pattern in lymph node tissue sections. Naïve and memory B cells located in the mantle zone showed a higher miR-150 expression as compared to most of the cells in the germinal centers. However, within the germinal centers a minority of cells showed a much stronger cytoplasmic staining in part of the blasts located specifically in the dark zone. This indicated that part of the centroblasts have a high expression level of miR-150. The level of miR-150 was surprisingly low in 22 B cell lymphoma cell lines, irrespective of germinal center or non germinal center B cell origin. This seemingly negative association of miR-150 with proliferation suggests a role in B cell growth/death. We observed an inverse expression pattern of miR-150 and Survivin in the germinal centers by miRNA ISH and immunohistochemistry. Moreover, induction of miR-150 using synthetic mature miR-150 duplex resulted in reduced Survivin expression levels. Our results suggested that aside the experimentally proven target c-Myb, Survivin may also be regulated by miR-150. In conclusion, we have revealed a unique miRNA profile of naïve, germinal center and memory B cells sorted from normal tonsils and the results were confirmed by miRNA ISH. Within the germinal centers a marked difference was observed between the light zone and the dark zone.

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