Human herpesvirus-6 in human lymphomas: identification of specific sequences in Hodgkin's lymphomas by polymerase chain reaction

G Torelli, R Marasca, M Luppi, L Selleri, S Ferrari, F Narni, M T Mariano, M Federico, L Ceccherini-Nelli, M Bendinelli
Blood 1991 May 15, 77 (10): 2251-8
In search of a possible involvement of the human herpesvirus type 6 (HHV-6) in human Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, we studied the levels of anti-HHV-6 antibodies in the sera of 94 cases by an immunofluorescence assay, as well as the presence of HHV-6 sequences in the affected tissues of 66 cases by polymerase chain reaction, using one set of primer oligonucleotides. Our results showed higher anti-HHV-6 antibody titers in human lymphomas than in normal blood donors, but the difference is statistically significant only when normal donors are compared with Hodgkin's lymphoma cases. HHV-6 sequences were detected in 3 of 25 Hodgkin's lymphomas and 0 of the 41 cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas studied. The three cases positive for HHV-6 sequences belong to the nodular sclerosis-lymphocyte depletion histologic subtype and share remarkable similarities in their clinical features. Furthermore, Southern blot analysis of total genomic DNA obtained from the neoplastic tissues of two of the three patients showed the same restriction fragment length polymorphism. Our results suggest that: (1) the high level of anti-HHV-6 antibodies in Hodgkin's disease is due to an activation of the immune system not related to the presence of HHV-6 sequences in affected lymph nodes; (2) the presence of HHV-6 sequences in human lymphoid tissues is not a frequent event, rather it is in fact a very rare event in non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, while in Hodgkin's cases it is more frequent than previously reported on the basis of Southern blot analysis; and (3) the presence of HHV-6 sequences in Hodgkin's lymphomas may have a relation with the clinical presentation of the disease.


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