Epigenetic, Metabolic, and Immune Crosstalk in Germinal-Center-Derived B-Cell Lymphomas: Unveiling New Vulnerabilities for Rational Combination Therapies

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2022 Jan 7;9:805195. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.805195. eCollection 2021.


B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas (B-NHLs) are highly heterogenous by genetic, phenotypic, and clinical appearance. Next-generation sequencing technologies and multi-dimensional data analyses have further refined the way these diseases can be more precisely classified by specific genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic characteristics. The molecular and genetic heterogeneity of B-NHLs may contribute to the poor outcome of some of these diseases, suggesting that more personalized precision-medicine approaches are needed for improved therapeutic efficacy. The germinal center (GC) B-cell like diffuse large B-cell lymphomas (GCB-DLBCLs) and follicular lymphomas (FLs) share specific epigenetic programs. These diseases often remain difficult to treat and surprisingly do not respond advanced immunotherapies, despite arising in secondary lymphoid organs at sites of antigen recognition. Epigenetic dysregulation is a hallmark of GCB-DLBCLs and FLs, with gain-of-function (GOF) mutations in the histone methyltransferase EZH2, loss-of-function (LOF) mutations in histone acetyl transferases CREBBP and EP300, and the histone methyltransferase KMT2D representing the most prevalent genetic lesions driving these diseases. These mutations have the common effect to disrupt the interactions between lymphoma cells and the immune microenvironment, via decreased antigen presentation and responsiveness to IFN-γ and CD40 signaling pathways. This indicates that immune evasion is a key step in GC B-cell lymphomagenesis. EZH2 inhibitors are now approved for the treatment of FL and selective HDAC3 inhibitors counteracting the effects of CREBBP LOF mutations are under development. These treatments can help restore the immune control of GCB lymphomas, and may represent optimal candidate agents for more effective combination with immunotherapies. Here, we review recent progress in understanding the impact of mutant chromatin modifiers on immune evasion in GCB lymphomas. We provide new insights on how the epigenetic program of these diseases may be regulated at the level of metabolism, discussing the role of metabolic intermediates as cofactors of epigenetic enzymes. In addition, lymphoma metabolic adaptation can negatively influence the immune microenvironment, further contributing to the development of immune cold tumors, poorly infiltrated by effector immune cells. Based on these findings, we discuss relevant candidate epigenetic/metabolic/immune targets for rational combination therapies to investigate as more effective precision-medicine approaches for GCB lymphomas.

Keywords: GCB-DLBCLs; combination therapies; epigenetics; immune microenvironment; metabolic intermediates.

Publication types

  • Review