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Chemokine receptors mediate migration and activation of lymphocytes through binding of their ligands. Recent studies have revealed important contributions of chemokine receptors to the development, progression, and dissemination of haematopoietic neoplasms. Because the chemokine receptor expression profile in extragastric MALT lymphoma is unknown, we performed a comprehensive study on tissue samples of parotid glands, parotid glands affected by Sjögren syndrome, extragastric MALT lymphoma, and extranodal diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (eDLBCL) originating from MALT lymphoma (transformed MALT lymphoma). By investigating the expression of 19 chemokine receptors by real-time PCR using a semi-quantitative approach and of four chemokine receptors (CCR1, CCR5, CXCR6, and XCR1) by immunohistochemistry, we show that the chemokine receptor expression profiles of extragastric MALT lymphomas differ substantially from those of extranodal DBLCL, with lower expression of CCR1, CCR8, and CXCR3, and the absence of expression of CX3CR1 and XCR1 in eDLBCL. Expression of CCR6, CCR7, CXCR3, CXCR4, and CXCR5, responsible for B-cell homing to secondary lymphoid tissue, was detected in both B-cell malignancies. Expression of CCR4 was just detected in trisomy 3-positive MALT lymphoma cases. Comparing gastric with extragastric MALT lymphomas, up-regulation of CXCR1 and CXCR2 accompanied by down-regulation of CCR8 and CX3CR1 and loss of XCR1 expression in extragastric MALT lymphomas appear to be key determinants for the site of origin of MALT lymphomagenesis. Our results support a model of stepwise progression of extragastric MALT lymphoma from a non-neoplastic event to Sjögren syndrome, to MALT lymphoma, and finally to overt eDLBCL, guided by differentially expressed B-cell homeostatic and activation-dependent chemokine receptors and their ligands. Copyright © 2008 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.