Aberrant expression of the Th2 cytokine IL-21 in Hodgkin lymphoma cells regulates STAT3 signaling and attracts Treg cells via regulation of MIP-3α


  • B. Lamprecht
  • S. Kreher
  • I. Anagnostopoulos
  • K. Joehrens
  • G. Monteleone
  • F. Jundt
  • H. Stein
  • M. Janz
  • B. Doerken
  • S. Mathas


  • Blood


  • Blood 112 (8): 3339-3347


  • The malignant Hodgkin-/Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells of classical Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) are derived from mature B cells, but have lost a considerable part of the B cell-specific gene expression pattern. Consequences of such a lineage infidelity for lymphoma pathogenesis are currently not defined. Here, we report that HRS cells aberrantly express the common cytokine-receptor gamma-chain (gammac) cytokine IL-21, which is usually restricted to a subset of CD4(+) T cells, and the corresponding IL-21 receptor. We demonstrate that IL-21 activates STAT3 in HRS cells, up-regulates STAT3 target genes, and protects HRS cells from CD95 death receptor-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, IL-21 is involved in up-regulation of the CC chemokine macrophage-inflammatory protein-3alpha (MIP-3alpha) in HRS cells. MIP-3alpha in turn attracts CCR6(+)CD4(+)CD25(+)FoxP3(+)CD127(lo) regulatory T cells towards HRS cells, which might favour their immune escape. Together, these data support the concept that aberrant expression of B lineage-inappropriate genes plays an important role for the biology of HL tumor cells.