B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma encompasses a heterogeneous group of B-lymphocyte-derived malignancies that are characterized by chromosomal translocations involving the immunoglobulin (IG) gene loci and specific histological subtypes of disease are associated with a different spectrum of IG translocations. Marginal zone derived B cell lymphomas encompass three distinct entities: extranodal marginal zone B lymphoma (MZL) of mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT), nodal MZL (NMZL), and splenic MZL (SMZL). MALT lymphoma is genetically unique and four mutually exclusive chromosomal translocations have been identified in this disease thus far. However, the known translocations are only present in a subset of cases suggesting that additional uncharacterized translocations or other genetic events may exist that contribute to disease development.
In previous studies we characterized the novel t(X;14)(p11.4;q32) translocation in a patient with MALT lymphoma and found that GPR34, an orphan G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR), was highly expressed due to its juxtaposition to the IGHSA2 switch region. We then measured GPR34 mRNA expression in tissue biopsies from a panel of MALT, NMZL, SMZL, lymphoplasmacytic (LPL), diffuse large B cell (DLBCL), follicular (FL), and mantle cell (MCL) lymphomas. Expression of GPR34 was detected in all tissues examined, but was significantly increased in MALT (37 fold), LPL (23 fold), NMZL (18 fold), and SMZL (21 fold) compared to normal CD19+ B cells. GPR34 mRNA expression was also analyzed by gene expression profiling (GEP) of a panel of lymphomas or control lymphoid tissue and we confirmed elevated expression of GPR34 in the t(X;14) case and detected elevated GPR34 mRNA expression in MALT, LPL, NMZL, SMZL, and ABC DLBCL. When we grouped specimens by high and low expression of GPR34, a clear molecular subtype of SMZL could be identified and suggests that GPR34 high expressing tumors have a unique GEP. To confirm the qPCR and GEP analysis of GPR34 expression, we analyzed surface expression of GPR34 by flow cytometry of normal and malignant tissues and found that expression of GPR34 was detected on all MALT and SMZL B cells with an average DMFI of 2.08 (DMFI range 1.26–3.18, n=12) and on the JeKo-1 lymphoma B cell line (DMFI= 4.75). Analysis of CD19+ cells from normal controls (n=3) revealed a low level of GPR34 on (average DMFI =1.12).
Little is known about the function of GPR34 and to further characterize the impact of GPR34 overexpression on cell signaling, OCI-LY19 lymphoma B cells and HeLa cells were transduced with GPR34 or a vector control. To determine if MAPK activity, a pathway regulated by GPCRs, was upregulated, the phosphorylation status of ERK1/2 in GPR34 or control cells was analyzed and we found that ERK1/2 was constitutively phosphorylated at significantly higher levels in GRP34 expressing cells. To further explore which signaling pathways were affected by GPR34 overexpression, GPR34 or vector control cells were transfected with an AP-1, CRE, NF-kB, E2F, SRE, NFAT, or ISRE- luciferase reporter plasmid and GPR34 expressing cells had significantly increased luciferase activity driven by AP-1 (5.35-fold), CRE (4.7-fold), NF-kB (2.6-fold), and E2F (2.1) when compared to vector control cells.
To determine the biologic impact of GRP34 overexpression, the proliferation rates of vector control and GPR34 cells were compared and we found that proliferation of GPR34 WT cells was significantly higher than that seen in the control. We next tested the effect of the MEK inhibitor on proliferation and saw a dose dependent decrease in proliferation of GPR34 expressing cells. We then tested the ability of GPR34 cells to generate colony formation in a soft-agar colony formation assay. After 3 weeks of culture, the GPR34 cells had formed significantly more colonies than the vector control suggesting that overexpression of GPR34 can result in increased anchorage-independent cell growth.
Taken together, our results identify a novel translocation in MALT lymphoma, emphasize a novel role for GPR34 in regulation of gene expression and tumor cell growth, and suggest that MEK inhibitors may be useful in a subset of translocation–harboring or GRP34 high-expressing tumors.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.