We recently reported that Swedish VH3-21-utilizing chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients showed restricted immunoglobulin gene features and poor prognosis despite VH mutation status. To investigate whether VH3-21+ CLLs have similar characteristics in different parts of the world, we analyzed the VH and VL gene rearrangements in 90 patients from Sweden, Germany, Italy, USA, Finland and Australia and correlated these data with survival. Sixty-three percent of cases exhibited mutated VH genes and 37% had unmutated VH genes. Fifty patients (56%) displayed a short and homologous heavy-chain CDR3, many of these with the amino acid motif, DANGMDV. Also, a highly biased Vλ2-14 usage was evident in 73% of patients with a restricted light-chain CDR3, QVWDS(S/G)SDHPWV. Combined restricted heavy- and light-chain CDR3s were found in patients from all included countries. Although VH3-21+ CLLs have a remarkably predominant λ-expression, analyses of kappa deleting element showed a conserved rearrangement order of the light-chain loci. The overall survival was poor in the VH3-21+ cohort (median survival 88 months) with no significant difference in relation to mutation status or homologous/non-homologous CDR3. In summary, highly restricted B-cell receptors and worse outcome characterize VH3-21+ CLLs independent of geographical origin and mutation status. VH3-21 usage should now be included in prognostic stratification of CLL when assessing mutation status.

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