It has been well-established that Ig genes are transcriptionally silenced when Ig-producing myeloma lines are fused to non-B cells. In the present study, we analyzed the expression of several other myeloma-specific genes in fusions of myelomas with the T lymphoma, BW5147. Seven of the eight genes analyzed behaved coordinately with the Ig loci; they were silent in most myeloma x T hybrids but active in the rare hybrid that retained Ig gene expression. Cloned IgH genes introduced into the two types of hybrids behaved as their endogenous counterparts. The coordinate behavior of these several genes in the panel of "exceptional" and "extinguished" hybrids suggests a central and bimodal switch for alternately activating and de-activating the genetic program of the Ig-secreting plasmacyte. The switch between an active and an inactive transcriptional state involves, at some level, a change in the methylation status of the IgH genes. Methylation and transcriptional activity were inversely correlated. In Ig-extinguished hybrids the myeloma-derived locus was methylated de novo, whereas in the rare Ig-expressing hybrid, the T cell-derived locus was demethylated de novo.

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