IL-4 protein expression and basal activation of Erk in vivo in follicular lymphoma.
Follicular lymphoma (FL) is characterized by constitutive expression of Bcl-2 as a consequence of t(14;18). Evidence suggests factors in the lymph node microenvironment, related to intratumoral T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells, play a role in the disease process. We generated proteomic cytokine profiles of FL (N = 50) and follicular hyperplasia (FH; N = 23). A total of 10 cytokines were assayed using ultrasensitive multiplex enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays: IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-8, IL-10, IL-13, IL-12p70, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and interferon-gamma. Each cytokine showed overall lower protein concentrations in FL, with the exception of IL-4, which was nearly 5 times higher in FL than FH (P = .005). Using reverse-phase protein microarrays (RPMAs), we evaluated the activation state of several intracellular signaling proteins downstream of cytokine receptors. Basal Erk phosphorylation was approximately 4 times greater in FL than FH (P < .001), with similar findings for Mek; Stat-6 showed weak basal phosphorylation that was approximately twice as high in FL than in FH (P = .012). In conclusion, the FL microenvironment contains increased levels of IL-4, with prominent tumor basal phosphorylation of Erk. These findings suggest IL-4, Erk, and possibly Stat-6 may play a role in the biology of FL and may serve as targets for future therapies.