The precise molecular pathogenesis of splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL) is still unknown. Clinical and epidemiological data suggest that chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection may have an etiological role in a subset of cases.We performed a large-scale microRNA (miRNA) expression profiling analysis of 381 miRNAs by quantitative reverse transcription PCR (Q-RT-PCR) of 26 microdissected splenic tissue samples (7 HCV(+) SMZL; 8 HCV(-) SMZL and 11 non-neoplastic splenic controls). Single assay Q-RT-PCR and miRNA in situ hybridization (miRNA-ISH) were used to confirm the results in an independent cohort. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering of miRNA expression profiles demonstrated a distinct signature of SMZL compared with the normal splenic marginal zone. Supervised analysis revealed differentially expressed miRNAs, including miRNAs with previously recognized tumor suppressive or oncogenic potential. Five miRNAs were found significantly overexpressed in SMZL, including miR-21, miR-155 and miR-146a, whereas seven miRNAs showed significantly reduced expression, including miR-139, miR-345, miR-125a and miR-126. Furthermore, we identified miR-26b, a miRNA known to have tumor suppressive properties, as significantly downregulated in SMZL arising in HCV-positive patients (P=0.0016). In conclusion, there is a characteristic dysregulation of miRNA expression in SMZL with a possible implication in its molecular tumorigenesis.