Although generally curable with intensive chemotherapy in resource-rich settings, Burkitt lymphoma (BL) remains a deadly disease in older patients and in sub-Saharan Africa. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) positivity is a feature in more than 90% of cases in malaria-endemic regions, and up to 30% elsewhere. However, the molecular features of BL have not been comprehensively evaluated when taking into account tumor EBV status or geographic origin. Through an integrative analysis of whole-genome and transcriptome data, we show a striking genome-wide increase in aberrant somatic hypermutation in EBV-positive tumors, supporting a link between EBV and activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AICDA) activity. In addition to identifying novel candidate BL genes such as SIN3A, USP7, and CHD8, we demonstrate that EBV-positive tumors had significantly fewer driver mutations, especially among genes with roles in apoptosis. We also found immunoglobulin variable region genes that were disproportionally used to encode clonal B-cell receptors (BCRs) in the tumors. These include IGHV4-34, known to produce autoreactive antibodies, and IGKV3-20, a feature described in other B-cell malignancies but not yet in BL. Our results suggest that tumor EBV status defines a specific BL phenotype irrespective of geographic origin, with particular molecular properties and distinct pathogenic mechanisms. The novel mutation patterns identified here imply rational use of DNA-damaging chemotherapy in some patients with BL and targeted agents such as the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib in others, whereas the importance of BCR signaling in BL strengthens the potential benefit of inhibitors for PI3K, Syk, and Src family kinases among these patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology