Epstein-Barr virus-negative post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders: a distinct entity?

Am J Surg Pathol. 2000 Mar;24(3):375-85. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200003000-00006.


Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLDs) are usually but not invariably associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The reported incidence, however, of EBV-negative PTLDs varies widely, and it is uncertain whether they should be considered analogous to EBV-positive PTLDs and whether they have any distinctive features. Therefore, the EBV status of 133 PTLDs from 80 patients was determined using EBV-encoded small ribonucleic acid (EBER) in situ hybridization stains with or without Southern blot EBV terminal repeat analysis. The morphologic, immunophenotypic, genotypic, and clinical features of the EBV-negative PTLDs were reviewed, and selected features were compared with EBV-positive cases. Twenty-one percent of patients had at least one EBV-negative PTLD (14% of biopsies). The initial EBV-negative PTLDs occurred a median of 50 months post-transplantation compared with 10 months for EBV-positive cases. Although only 2% of PTLDs from before 1991 were EBV negative, 23% of subsequent PTLDs were EBV negative (p <0.001). Of the EBV-negative PTLDs, 67% were of monomorphic type (M-PTLD) compared with 42% of EBV-positive cases (p <0.05). The other EBV-negative PTLDs were of infectious mononucleosis-like, plasma cell-rich (n = 2), small B-cell lymphoid neoplasm, large granular lymphocyte disorder (n = 4) and polymorphic (P) types. B-cell clonality was established in 14 specimens and T-cell clonality was established in three (two patients). None of the remaining specimens were studied with Southern blot analysis and some had no ancillary studies. Rearrangement of c-MYC was identified in two M-PTLDs with small noncleaved-like features, and rearrangement of BCL-2 was found in one large noncleaved-like M-PTLD. Ten patients were alive at 3 to 63 months (only three patients received chemotherapy). Seven patients, all with M-PTLDs, are dead at 0.3 to 6 months. Therefore, EBV-negative PTLDs have distinct features, but some do respond to decreased immunosuppression, similar to EBV-positive cases, suggesting that EBV positivity should not be an absolute criterion for the diagnosis of a PTLD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / immunology
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / pathology*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / virology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Transplantation / adverse effects*