Most patients with follicular lymphoma (FL) have somatically mutated V genes with intraclonal variation, consistent with location in the germinal center site. Using our own and published sequences, we have investigated the frequency of potential N-glycosylation sites introduced into functional VH genes as a consequence of somatic mutation. FL cells were compared with normal memory B cells or plasma cells matched for similar levels of mutation. Strikingly, novel sites were detected in 55 of 70 (79%) patients with FL, compared to 7 of 75 (9%) in the normal B-cell population (P < .001). Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLCL) showed an intermediate frequency (13 of 32 [41%] patients). Myeloma and the mutated subset of chronic lymphocytic leukemia showed frequencies similar to those of normal cells in 5 of 64 (8%) patients and 5 of 40 (13%) patients, respectively. In 3 of 3 random patients with FL, immunoglobulin was expressed as recombinant single-chain Fv in Pichia pastoris, and glycosylation was demonstrated. These findings indicate that N-glycosylation of the variable region may be common in FL and in a subset of DLCL. Most novel sites are located in the complementarity-determining regions. VH sequences of nonfunctional VH genes contained few sites, arguing for positive selection in FL. One possibility is that the added carbohydrate in the variable region contributes to interaction with elements in the germinal center environment. This common feature of FL may be critical for tumor behavior
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