Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common form of lymphoma in adulthood, comprises multiple biologically and clinically distinct subtypes including germinal center B cell-like (GCB) and activated B cell like (ABC) DLBCL. Gene expression profile studies have shown that its most aggressive subtype, ABC-DLBCL, is associated with constitutive activation of the NF-kB transcription complex. However, except for a small fraction of cases, it remains unclear whether NF-kB activation in these tumors represents an intrinsic program of the tumor cell of origin or a pathogenetic event. Here we show that >50% of ABC-DLBCL and a smaller fraction of GCB-DLBCL carry somatic mutations at multiple genes, including negative (TNFAIP3/A20) and positive (CARD11, TRAF2, TRAF5, MAP3K7/TAK1 and TNFRSF11A/RANK) regulators of NF-kB. Of these, the A20 gene, which encodes for a ubiquitin-modifying enzyme involved in termination of NF-kB responses, is the most commonly affected one, with ~30% of the patients displaying biallelic inactivation by mutations and/or deletions, suggesting a tumor suppressor role. Less frequently, missense mutations of TRAF2 and CARD11 produce molecules with significantly enhanced ability to activate NF-kB. Thus, our results demonstrate that NF-kB activation in DLBCL is caused by genetic lesions affecting multiple genes, whose loss or activation may promote lymphomagenesis by leading to abnormally prolonged NF-kB responses.