Granzyme B expression in Reed-Sternberg cells of Hodgkin's disease

Am J Pathol. 1996 Jan;148(1):233-40.


Reed-Sternberg (RS) and Hodgkin's (H) cells are considered to be the neoplastic cells in Hodgkin's disease. Although most data suggest a lymphoid origin, the nature of these cells still remains the subject of considerable controversy. Recently, monoclonal antibodies became available, directed against granzyme B, a serine protease specifically expressed by activated cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) and natural killer (NK) cells. Using two granzyme B-specific antibodies directed against different epitopes, we studied the expression of granzyme B in a well characterized group of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-positive and EBV-negative cases of Hodgkin's disease. Granzyme B expression was found in part of the H-RS cells in 11 out of 61 tested cases (18%, 9 of 46 cases of nodular sclerosing and 1 of 12 mixed cellularity Hodgkin's disease). In none of these cases did H-RS cells express B-cell markers, whereas in four cases, expression of either the T-cell marker CD3 or CD8 was found in a small minority of H-RS cells. The percentage of granzyme B-positive H-RS cells ranged from < 10% to > 50%. Granzyme B-positive H-RS cells were present in 6 of 26 EBV-positive cases and in 5 of 35 EBV-negative cases, indicating no relationship with the presence of EBV. Moreover, no significant differences were found regarding either stage at presentation or clinical outcome. We conclude that in a restricted number of cases of Hodgkin's disease, the H-RS cells express granzyme B, and therefore might be considered the neoplastic equivalent of either activated CTLs or NK cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Child
  • Female
  • Granzymes
  • Hodgkin Disease / enzymology*
  • Hodgkin Disease / immunology
  • Hodgkin Disease / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymphocytes / enzymology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Proteins / analysis*
  • Reed-Sternberg Cells / enzymology*
  • Reed-Sternberg Cells / immunology
  • Serine Endopeptidases / analysis*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • GZMB protein, human
  • Granzymes
  • Serine Endopeptidases