Human herpesvirus 6 and Epstein-Barr virus in Hodgkin's disease: a controlled study by polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization

G Valente, P Secchiero, P Lusso, M C Abete, C Jemma, G Reato, S Kerim, R C Gallo, G Palestro
American Journal of Pathology 1996, 149 (5): 1501-10
Human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6), a T-lymphotropic double-stranded DNA virus highly endemic in human populations, has been suggested to play a possible role in the development of lymphoid neoplasms, especially Hodgkin's disease. To investigate this point, we evaluated the presence and distribution of HHV-6 DNA by Southern blot, nested polymerase chain reaction, and in situ hybridization in a series of lymphoproliferative disorders including 73 Hodgkin's disease cases, 15 non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and 19 reactive lymph nodes. A high prevalence of HHV-6 infection was observed within the Hodgkin's disease category by polymerase chain reaction (38 of 52, 73%) and in situ hybridization (47 of 57, 82.4%); however, a similar prevalence was found in non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (10 of 15, 66.6%) and reactive lymph nodes (13 of 19, 68.4%). In no case did Southern blot detect viral DNA, suggesting that the neoplastic tissue contained a low number of HHV-6 copies. In situ hybridization showed that the HHV-6 positivity was restricted to lymphocytes, whereas Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg cells were consistently negative. Immunohistochemical staining with specific monoclonal antibodies against viral structural proteins was also negative, indicating the absence of a productive infection. No relationship was observed between HHV-6 positivity and histological type, clinical parameters, and outcome of the disease. In the same series, a high proportion of cases (39 of 52, 75%) showed the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome by polymerase chain reaction; In situ hybridization for Epstein-Barr-virus-encoded small RNA and immunohistochemical detection of latent membrane protein-1 gave similar results (73.6% of positive cases with both methods). In 54.9% of the cases, both sequences of HHV-6 and Epstein-Barr virus DNA were found, suggesting that a synergism of the two viruses may occur. However, the lack of detectable HHV-6 DNA in Reed-Sternberg and Hodgkin's cells seems to argue against such an interpretation. Based on these results, HHV-6 does not appear to play a specific role in the pathogenesis of Hodgkin's disease.


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