Background: Recent evidence suggests that lipid pathway is altered in many human tumours. In Burkitt lymphoma this is reflected by the presence of lipid droplets which are visible in the cytoplasm of neoplastic cells in cytological preparations. These vacuoles are not identifiable in biopsy section as lipids are "lost" during tissue processing. Methods and Results: In this study we investigated the expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism, at both RNA and protein level in Burkitt lymphoma and in other B-cell aggressive lymphoma cases. Gene expression profile indicated a significant over-expression of the adipophilin gene and marked up-regulation of other genes involved in lipid metabolism in Burkitt lymphoma. These findings were confirmed by immunohistochemistry on a series od additional histological samples: 45 out of 47 BL cases showed strong adipophilin expression, while only 3 cases of the 33 of the not-Burkitt lymphoma category showed weak adipophilin expression (p<0.05). Conclusions: Our preliminary results suggest that lipid metabolism is altered in BL, and this leads to the accumulation of lipid vacuoles. These vacuoles may be specifically recognized by a monoclonal antibody against adipophilin, which may therefore be a useful marker for Burkitt lymphoma because of its peculiar expression pattern. Moreover this peptide might represent an interesting candidate for interventional strategies.
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