The most common recognized cytogenetic change in B-CLL is a deletion involving band 13q14.3. Dewald found a heterozygous or homozygous 13q– in 92% of CLL patient samples using the FISH probe D13S319 that hybridizes to 13q14.3 (BJH 121:287, 2003). This contrasts with the usually normal conventional chromosome analysis (CCA) results partly because CLL cells divide infrequently but also because the 13q– is often visualized only by FISH (Stockero, Ca Genet Cytogenet 166:152, 2006). Mayr recently showed that CpG stimulation can reveal a chromosomally abnormal CLL clone in metaphase cells (Blood 107:742, 2006). The purpose of the present study was to compare the incidence of microdeletion and visible 13q deletion in CLL using interphase FISH and CCA after CpG culture on the same peripheral blood specimens.

METHOD: We compared the chromosome 13 results by interphase FISH (fresh uncultured cells) and by a 20 metaphase CCA from 5–day CpG cultures. Our unselected CLL cohort (n=40) represented a typical and relatively high risk population: median age 61 (range 36–75), 48% CD38–positive, 62% ZAP–70 positive, and 48% IgVH unmutated. In addition 70% were previously treated for progressive disease, with all Rai stages represented.

CpG RESULTS: By CCA of 40 patients, CpG stimulation revealed a clonal (multiple abnormal cells) or nonclonal (one abnormal cell) abnormal karyotype in 32 (80%) and a normal karyotype in 8 of the 40 patients (20%). Among the 32 abnormal cases, each chromosome 13 pair appeared normal in 17 and was abnormal in 15 (one was monosomy 13, 8 were 13q–, and 6 had a 13q translocation). CpG did not reveal a homozygous 13q abnormality in any patient. In total, CpG revealed a 13q abnormality in 15 of 40 (38%) patients (8 had multiple abnormal metaphases and 7 had only one abnormal metaphase).

FISH RESULTS: By interphase FISH, 29 of 40 (73%) patients had a 13q–. The deletion was heterozygous in 18 patients, homozygous in 7, and mixed homo– and heterozygous in 4. Of the 18 with a heterozygous 13q loss by FISH, CpG revealed an abnormal 13 in only 8. Of the 11 patients with homozygous or mixed homo– and heterozygous 13q– by FISH, CpG revealed a heterozygous 13q abnormality in only 6. Of the 8 patients with a normal CpG karyotype, by FISH 5 had a 13q– in one or both 13s. Of the 9 patients with heterozygous 13q loss by CpG, the FISH result was 13q– in 4 and homozygous or mixed homo– and heterozygous 13q– in 5. Of the 6 with a chromosome 13 translocation by CpG, FISH revealed heterozygous 13q– in 4, mixed homo– and heterozygous 13q– in one, and in one case the 13q FISH result was within normal limits. In this latter case, CpG stimulation followed by metaphase FISH analysis confirmed that the apparently balanced translocation harbored a microdeletion 13q. Interphase FISH analysis confirmed the presence of a clonal deletion 13q in all 7 of the patients with a CpG metaphase result of a non-clonal (one metaphase cell) 13q abnormality.


  1. Even though CpG induces CLL metaphases in cell culture and reveals many chromosome abnormalities that cannot be identified by interphase FISH, cytogenetic evaluation of CLL by CpG alone significantly underestimates the incidence of 13q deletions.

  2. When a 20-cell analysis after CpG stimulation reveals a 13q abnromality in only one (apparently nonclonal) metaphase cell, concurrent interphase FISH analysis often confirms clonality for the 13q defect.

Author notes

Disclosure:Consultancy: Dr. Kay with Celgene. Honoraria Information: Dr. Kay from Bayer and Hospira, and Dr. Shanafelt from Bayer.