Background: The most common B-cell cancers, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/lymphoma (CLL), follicular and diffuse large B-cell (FL, DLBCL) lymphomas, have distinct clinical courses, yet overlapping “cell-of-origin”. Dynamic changes to the epigenome are essential regulators of B-cell differentiation. Therefore, we reasoned that these distinct cancers may be driven by shared mechanisms of disruption in transcriptional circuitry. Methods: We compared purified malignant B-cells from 52 patients with normal B-cell subsets (germinal center centrocytes and centroblasts, naïve and memory B-cells) from 36 donor tonsils using >325 high-resolution molecular profiling assays for histone modifications, open chromatin (ChIP-, FAIRE-seq), transcriptome (RNA-seq), transcription factor (TF) binding, and genome copy number (microarrays). Findings: From the resulting data, we identified gains in active chromatin in enhancers/super-enhancers that likely promote unchecked B-cell receptor signaling, including one we validated near the immunoglobulin superfamily receptors FCMR and PIGR. More striking and pervasive was the profound loss of key B-cell identity TFs, tumor suppressors and their super-enhancers, including EBF1, OCT2(POU2F2), and RUNX3. Using a novel approach to identify transcriptional feedback, we showed that these core transcriptional circuitries are self-regulating. Their selective gain and loss form a complex, iterative, and interactive process that likely curbs B-cell maturation and spurs proliferation. Interpretation: Our study is the first to map the transcriptional circuitry of the most common blood cancers. We demonstrate that a critical subset of B-cell TFs and their cognate enhancers form self-regulatory transcriptional feedback loops whose disruption is a shared mechanism underlying these diverse subtypes of B-cell lymphoma. Funding: National Institute of Health, Siteman Cancer Center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, Doris Duke Foundation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103559
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • B-cell cancer
  • Epigenetics
  • Lymphoma
  • Super-enhancers
  • Transcriptional regulation and feedback


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