Rearrangements involving TCF3 (E2A) at 19p13.3 are a common cytogenetic abnormality in B-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (B-LL) across all age groups accounting for at least 5% of B-LL. The most common translocation partner, PBX1 at 1q23, is associated with an unbalanced der(19) or a balanced t(1;19) in 80% vs. 20% patients, respectively, and results in a PBX1/TCF3 fusion transcriptional activator. Several other rearrangement partners have been described, and as such TCF3 is approaching the dubious status of a "promiscuous" gene partner. Clinically, our laboratory uses a dual-color, dual fusion PBX1/TCF3 FISH probe to characterize the most common gene fusion; however, this FISH strategy also allows for the identification of atypical disruptions of the TCF3 gene region, and may suggest a gene partner based on abnormal metaphases/metaphase-FISH.

Interrogation of our pediatric leukemia database (ages 0-30) identified 219 patients with abnormal TCF3 FISH results. We selected 23 samples for mate-pair evaluation to test the methodology, characterize novel rearrangements and identify new TCF3 fusion partners. In total, 19 patient samples were successfully sequenced by Mate-Pair, including 13 samples with variants of the 1;19 translocation. Of the samples with TCF3/PBX1 fusion, 3 patients demonstrated novel insertional translocation events characterized by mate-pair. A total of 6 samples with undefined/unknown TCF3 partner genes were evaluated. The mate-pair results identified 5 samples with a t(12;19)(p13.31;p13.3), resulting in TCF3/ZNF384 fusion. Interestingly, two of the ZNF384 rearrangements were observed in the unbalanced form, suggesting a similar mechanism related to the der(19)t(1;19) regularly observed in the common PBX1-TCF3 rearrangement. From a karyotype perspective, since these rearrangements result in only a small portion of chromosome 12p translocated onto distal 19p, this rearrangement would "cryptic" by conventional karyotyping. One patient sample demonstrated a new TCF3 gene fusion partner (TEF), associated with a t(19;22)(p13.3;q13.2).

Overall, our results demonstrate the utility of mate-pair evaluation as an adjunct methodology in the identification of novel TCF3 rearrangements in B-LL. We have successfully expanded the application of mate-pair to characterize other novel/cryptic abnormalities in various hematologic and oncologic neoplasms encountered in our laboratory.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.