Diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is an aggressive malignancy that accounts for nearly 40% of all lymphoid tumors. This heterogeneous disease can be divided into germinal center B cell-like (GCB) and activated B cell-like (ABC) subtypes by gene expression and immunohistochemical profiling. Using microarray analysis on prototypic cell lines, we identified microRNAs (miR-155, miR-21 and miR-221) that were more highly expressed in ABC-type than GCB-type cell lines. These microRNAs were over-expressed in de novo DLBCL (n = 35), transformed DLBCL (n = 14) and follicular center lymphoma cases (n = 27) compared to normal B cells. Consistent with the cell line model, expression levels were higher in DLBCL cases with an ABC-type immunophenotype than those that were GCB-type (p < 0.05). Moreover, using multivariate analysis we found that expression of miR-21 was an independent prognostic indicator in de novo DLBCL (p < 0.05). Interestingly, expression levels of both miR-155 and miR-21 were also higher in nonmalignant ABC than in GCB cells. As we also demonstrate that expression of microRNAs can be measured reliably from routine paraffin-embedded biopsies of more than 8-years-old (p < 0.001), we suggest that microRNAs could be clinically useful molecular markers for DLBCL as well as other cancers.