Splenic lymphoma with villous lymphocytes (SLVL) is a recently defined subgroup of chronic B-cell lymphoproliferative diseases. The characteristic morphology of the tumor cells, together with phenotypic and cytogenetic findings, indicate that it is a distinct entity, but the nature of the cell or origin and its relationship to other low- grade lymphomas is unclear. For B-cell tumors, analysis of the variable region heavy chain (VH) genes used to encode the clonal Ig has shown marked differences between histologic categories, both in gene usage and extent of somatic mutation. An investigation of VH genes used in five typical cases of SLVL has shown somatic hypermutation from germline sequences in all cases, indicating that the cell of origin has been exposed to the hypermutation mechanism. However, no clonal heterogeneity was detectable, demonstrating that the tumor cell does not accumulate further mutations. These characteristics are similar to those found in mature postfollicular B cells, such as plasma cells. The distribution of mutations leading to replacement amino acids differed among the cases, with three of five cases showing clear evidence for antigen selection.

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