Thymocyte selection-associated high-mobility group box (TOX) is a DNA-binding factor that is able to regulate transcription by modifying local chromatin structure and modulating the formation of multi-protein complexes. TOX has multiple roles in the development of the adaptive immune system including development of CD4 T cells, NK cells and lymph node organogenesis. However very few antibodies recognizing this molecule have been reported and no extensive study of the expression of TOX in reactive and neoplastic lymphoid tissue has been performed to date. In the present study, we have investigated TOX expression in normal and neoplastic lymphoid tissues using a novel rat monoclonal antibody that recognizes its target molecule in paraffin-embedded tissue sections. A large series of normal tissues and B- and T-cell lymphomas was studied, using whole sections and tissue microarrays. We found that the majority of precursor B/T lymphoblastic, follicular and diffuse large B-cell lymphomas, nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphomas and angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphomas strongly expressed the TOX protein. Burkitt and mantle cell lymphomas showed TOX expression in a small percentage of cases. TOX was not found in the majority of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, myelomas, marginal zone lymphomas and classical Hodgkin lymphomas. In conclusion, we describe for the first time the expression of TOX in normal and neoplastic lymphoid tissues. The co-expression of TOX and PD-1 identified in normal and neoplastic T cells is consistent with recent studies identifying TOX as a critical regulator of T-cell exhaustion and a potential immunotherapy target. Its differential expression may be of diagnostic relevance in the differential diagnosis of follicular lymphoma, the identification of the phenotype of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and the recognition of peripheral T-cell lymphoma with a follicular helper T phenotype.
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