Detection of ebv gene expression in reed-sternberg cells of Hodgkin's disease



EBV DNA has been detected by Southern blot hybridization in 20-25% of Hodgkin's disease tumor specimens and localized to the Reed-Sternberg cells by in situ hybridization. In the present investigation we used a 3H-labelled EBER I anti-sense RNA for in situ hybridization of archival formalinfixed paraffin-embedded Hodgkin's disease specimens previ ously shown by Southern Blot hybridization to be EBV-positive. In 6 of 8 specimens neoplastic cells showed an intense signal in virtually all of the tumor cells. The background lym phocytes, eosinophils, plasma cells and histiocytes did not demonstrate significant hybridization. In each case hybridiza tion tended to spare the nucleoli. Hybridization was detected in specimens with histologies of mixed cellularity and nodular sclerosis. The intensity of signal relative to background is bet ter than that in previous studies utilizing 35S-labelled large internal repeat probes for EBV in Reed-Sternberg cells. The exposure time is one week in contrast to the 4-5 weeks reported by others for detection of EBV in Hodgkin's disease. Both increased relative intensity and shorter exposure re quirements may be attributed to the very high number of EBER transcripts in the target cells. The demonstration that EBER I is expressed is consistent with a role for EBV in growth regulation of Reed-Sternberg cells and suggests that the virus is not merely a silent passenger in Hodgkin's disease.