Author(s): Falini B
AIMS: The aim of this study was to search for a molecule selectively expressed by marginal zone (MZ) lymphomas (MZLs), whose diagnosis is currently based on morphological criteria and negativity for markers detectable in other B-cell lymphomas. METHODS AND RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred and four peripheral lymphomas of various types were immunostained with a monoclonal antibody against immunoglobulin superfamily receptor translocation-associated 1 (IRTA1), which recognizes the equivalents of MZ in human lymphoid tissues other than spleen. IRTA1 expression was restricted to extranodal (93%) and nodal MZLs (73%) and to lymphomas with MZ differentiation. Extranodal MZL cells with the strongest IRTA1 expression were usually located adjacent to epithelia, mimicking the IRTA1 expression pattern of normal and acquired mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT). The cytological features, growth pattern and IRTA1 positivity in nodal MZLs suggest they may derive from IRTA1(+) perifollicular B cells or monocytoid B cells detectable in reactive lymph nodes. Double immunostaining for IRTA1/bcl-6 tracked the colonization of B-cell follicles by MZL cells, and showed modulation of their phenotype (e.g. acquisition of bcl-6) during recirculation through germinal centres. MZL cells differentiating into plasma cells usually lost IRTA1. CONCLUSIONS: These results further expand our knowledge of the biology of MZLs, and highlight IRTA1 as the first positive marker for MZLs, enabling more accurate diagnosis of these neoplasms.