Background and aim of the study

Primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (PMBL) is an entity of aggressive B-cell lymphoma that is clinically and biologically distinct from the other molecular subtypes of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). We recently detected by Whole exome sequencing a recurrent point mutation in the XPO1 (exportin 1) gene (also referred to as chromosome region maintenance 1; CRM1), which resulted in the Glu571Lys (p.E571K) missense substitution in 2 refractory/relapsed PMBL (Dubois et al., ICML 2015; Mareschal et al. AACR 2015). XPO1 is a member of the Karyopherin-b superfamily of nuclear transport proteins. XPO1 mediates the nuclear export of numerous RNAs and cellular regulatory proteins, including tumor suppressor proteins. This mutation is in the hydrophobic groove of XPO1 that binds to the leucine-rich nuclear export signal (NES) of cargo proteins. In this study, we investigated the prevalence, specificity, and biological / clinical relevance of XPO1 mutations in PMBL.

Patients and methods

High-throughput targeted or Sanger sequencing of 117 PMBL patients and 3 PMBL cell lines were performed. PMBL cases were defined either molecularly by gene expression profile (mPMBL cohort) or by standard histological method (hPMBL cohort) and enrolled in various LYSA (LYmphoma Study Association) clinical trials. To assess the frequency and specificity of XPO1 mutations, cases of classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) and primary mediastinal grey zone lymphoma (MGZL) were analysed. Cell experiments were performed to assess the impact of the E571 mutation on the activity of selective inhibitor of nuclear export (SINE) molecules.


XPO1 mutations were present in 28/117 (24%) PMBL cases but were rare in cHL cases (1/19, 5%) and absent from MGZL cases (0/20). A higher prevalence (50%) of the recurrent codon 571 variant (p.E571K) was observed in PMBL cases defined by gene expression profiling (n = 32), as compared to hPMBL cases (n = 85, 13%). No difference in age, International Prognostic Index (IPI) or bulky mass was observed between the PMBL patients harboring mutant and wild-type XPO1 in the overall cohort whereas a female predominance was noticed in the mPMBL cohort. Based on a median follow-up duration of 42 months, XPO1 mutant patients exhibited significantly decreased PFS (3y PFS = 74% [CI95% 55-100]) compared to wild-type patients (3y PFS = 94% [CI95% 83-100], p=0.049) in the mPMBL cohort. In 4/4 tested cases, the E571K variant was also detected in cell-free circulating plasmatic DNA, suggesting that the mutation can be used as a biomarker at the time of diagnosis and during follow-up. Importantly, the E571K variant was detected as a heterozygous mutation in MedB-1, a PMBL-derived cell line, whereas the two other PMBL cell lines tested, Karpas1106 and U-2940, did not display any variants in XPO1 exon 15. KPT-185, the SINE compound that blocks XPO1-dependent nuclear export, induced a dose-dependent decrease in cell proliferation and increased cell death in the PMBL cell lines harbouring wild type or mutated alleles. To test directly if XPO1 mutation from E571 to E571K alters XPO1 inhibition by SINE compounds, the mutated protein was tested in vitro. The E571XPO1 mutated allele was transiently transfected into osteosarcoma U2OS cells which stably express the fluorescently labelled XPO1 cargo REV. Cells were treated with the clinical SINE compound selinexor, which is currently in phase I/II clinical trials and nuclear localization of REV-GFP was analysed in red transfected cells. The results showed that the nuclear export of the mutated XPO1 protein was inhibited by selinexor similarly to the wild-type XPO1 protein (Figure 1).


Although the oncogenic properties of XPO1 mutations remain to be determined, their recurrent selection in PMBL strongly supports their involvement in the pathogenesis of this curable aggressive B-cell lymphoma. XPO1 mutations were primarily observed in young female patients who displayed a typical PMBL molecular signature. The E571K XPO1 mutation represents a novel hallmark of PMBL but does not seem to interfere with SINE activity.

Rev-GFP (green fluorescent) expressing U2OS cells were transfected with wild type XPO1-RFP (red fluorescent protein), XPO1-C528S-RFP, XPO1-E571K-mCherry, and XPO1-E571G-mCherry. The cells were then treated with 1µM KPT-330 for 8 hours.

Figure 1.

Rev-GFP expressing U2OS cells transfected with XPO1 variants.

Figure 1.

Rev-GFP expressing U2OS cells transfected with XPO1 variants.


Landesman:Karyopharm Therapeutics: Employment. Senapedis:Karyopharm Therapeutics, Inc.: Employment, Patents & Royalties. Argueta:Karyopharm Therapeutics: Employment. Milpied:Celgene: Honoraria, Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.