Key Points

  • IGLV3-21R110 defines a subset of CLL with intermediate epigenetic subtype, moderate IGHV mutations, specific drivers, and poor outcome.

  • IGLV3-21R110 CLL have a transcriptional profile resembling unmutated IGHV CLL and a specific signature including WNT5A/B overexpression.

B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling is crucial for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) biology. IGLV3-21-expressing B-cells may acquire a single point mutation (R110) that triggers autonomous BCR signaling conferring aggressive behavior. Epigenetic studies have defined three CLL subtypes based on methylation signatures reminiscent of naïve-like (n-CLL), intermediate (i-CLL) and memory-like B-cells (m-CLL) with different biological features. i-CLL carry a borderline IGHV mutational load and a significant higher usage of IGHV3-21/IGLV3-21. To determine the clinical and biological features of IGLV3-21R110 CLL and its relationship to these epigenetic subtypes we have characterized the immunoglobulin gene of 584 CLL cases using whole-genome/exome and RNA sequencing. IGLV3-21R110 was detected in 6.5% of cases, being 30/79 (38%) i-CLL, 5/291 (1.7%) m-CLL and 1/189 (0.5%) n-CLL. All stereotype subset #2 cases carried IGLV3-21R110 while 62% of IGLV3-21R110 i-CLL had non-stereotyped B-cell receptor immunoglobulins. IGLV3-21R110 i-CLL had significantly higher number of SF3B1 and ATM mutations, and total number of driver alterations. Nonetheless, the R110 mutation was the sole alteration in one i-CLL and accompanied only by del(13q) in three. Although composite regarding IGHV mutational status, IGLV3-21R110 i-CLL transcriptomically resembled naïve-like/unmutated IGHV CLL with a specific signature including WNT5A/B overexpression. Contrarily, i-CLL lacking the IGLV3-21R110 mirrored memory-like/mutated IGHV cases. IGLV3-21R110 i-CLL had a short time to first treatment and overall survival similar to n-CLL/unmutated IGHV cases whereas non-IGLV3-21R110 i-CLL had a good prognosis similar to memory-like/mutated IGHV. Altogether, IGLV3-21R110 defines a CLL subgroup with specific biological features and an unfavorable prognosis independent of the IGHV mutational status and epigenetic subtypes.

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