The life and death of the germinal center

Ann Diagn Pathol. 2020 Feb;44:151421. doi: 10.1016/j.anndiagpath.2019.151421. Epub 2019 Nov 13.


The formation, development and dissolution of germinal centers is a major part of immune system function. It is important to differentiate neoplastic processes from follicular hyperplasia and regressive follicular changes. Better understanding of germinal center development and dissolution also provides diagnostic clues to the underlying pathologic process. It is also important in identifying the immune basis of different pathologic entities as well as in immunotherapy decision making and follow up. In this study, we characterize the immunoarchitecture of lymphoid follicles with a focus on germinal center in one representative case, each of commonly encountered benign and malignant lymph node disorders, with morphologic and immunohistochemical alterations of germinal centers. The cases include reactive follicular hyperplasia (FH), florid follicular hyperplasia (FFH), follicular lymphoma (FL), angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL), hyaline-vascular Castleman disease (HVCD), progressive transformation of germinal centers, nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL), lymphocyte-rich classic Hodgkin lymphoma (LR-CHL), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated follicular dissolution and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with proliferation centers (PC). A panel of antibodies were used namely CD3, CD20, CD10, BCL2, BCL6, CD21, CD23, CD35, FOXP1, GCET1, HGAL/GCET2, LMO2, MUM1, IgD, Ki67, PD1 and PD-L1. We found that these entities show distinct immunoarchitectural patterns of germinal center formation, development and regression, particularly, the distribution of mantle zone B-cells, follicular helper T cells (Tfh) and FDC meshworks, confirming the influence of antigenic stimulation and status of immune system in these changes. This also confirms the interrelationship of underlying immunologic mechanisms in these disease processes.

Keywords: Follicular hyperplasia; Follicular lymphoma; Germinal center; Germinal center dissolution; Primary follicles; Progressive transformation of germinal centers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / pathology
  • Germinal Center / immunology
  • Germinal Center / metabolism
  • Germinal Center / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / immunology
  • Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphoma, Follicular / immunology
  • Lymphoma, Follicular / metabolism
  • Lymphoma, Follicular / pathology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology


  • Biomarkers