Cell proliferation is a process that is strictly regulated by a large number of proteins. An alteration in one of the encoding genes inserts an error into the regulative protein, which may result in uncontrolled cell growth and eventually tumor formation. Lymphoma is a cancer type originating in the lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune defence. In the present thesis, Znfn1a1, Notch1 and Bcl11b were studied; all involved in the differentiation of T lymphocytes. The three genes are located in chromosomal regions that have previously shown frequent loss of heterozygosity in tumor DNA.
Ikaros is a protein involved in the early differentiation of T lymphocytes. In this thesis, mutation analysis of the Znfn1a1 gene in chemically induced murine lymphomas revealed point mutations and homozygous deletions in 13 % of the tumors. All of the detected deletions lead to amino acid substitutions or abrogation of the functional domains in the Ikaros protein. Our results support the role of Ikaros as a potential tumor suppressor in a subset of tumors.
Notch1 is a protein involved in many differentiation processes in the body. In lymphocytes, Notch1 drives the differentiation towards a T-cell fate and activating alterations in the Notch1 gene have been suggested to be involved in T-cell lymphoma. We identified activating mutations in Notch1 in 39 % of the chemically induced murine lymphomas, supporting the involvement of activating Notch1 mutations in the development of T-cell lymphoma.
Bcl11b has been suggested to be involved in the early T-cell specification, and mutations in the Bcl11b gene has been identified in T-cell lymphoma. In this thesis, point mutations and deletions were detected in the DNA-binding zinc finger regions of Bcl11b in 15 % of the chemically induced lymphomas in C57Bl/6×C3H/HeJ F1 mice. A mutational hotspot was identified, where four of the tumors carried the same mutation. Three of the identified alterations, including the hotspot mutation in Bcl11b, increased cell proliferation when introduced in a cell without endogenous Bcl11b, whereas cell proliferation was suppressed by wild-type Bcl11b in the same cell line. Mutations in Bcl11b may therefore be an important contributing factor to lymphomagenesis in a subset of tumors.
A germ line point mutation was identified in BCL11B in one of 33 human B-cell lymphoma patients. Expression of BCL11B in infiltrating T cells was significantly lower in aggressive compared to indolent lymphomas, suggesting that the infiltrating T cells may affect the B-cell lymphomas.