The BCL6 proto-oncogene encodes a transcriptional repressor necessary for the development of germinal centers (GCs) and directly implicated in lymphomagenesis. Post-GC development of B cells requires BCL6 downregulation, while its constitutive expression caused by chromosomal translocations leads to diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Herein we identify a signaling pathway that downregulates BCL6 expression in normal GC B cells and is blocked in a subset of DLBCL due to alterations in the BCL6 gene. Activation of the CD40 receptor leads to NF-kappaB-mediated induction of the IRF4 transcription factor, which, in turn, represses BCL6 expression by binding to its promoter region. A subset of DLBCL displays chromosomal translocations or mutations that disrupt the IRF4-responsive region in the BCL6 promoter and block its downregulation by CD40 signaling.