Adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is a mature T-cell neoplasm in adult that is caused by human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) and highly intractable to conventional therapeutics. Since there are 1.2 million HTLV-1 carriers in Japan and more than 50,000 carriers are expected to develop ATL from now on, it is of particular importance to understand the pathogenesis of ATL. The malignant processes of T-cell transformation in ATL are initiated by HTLV-1 infection in early childhood, and the HTLV-1 infected and immortalized T-cells are thought to accumulate a series of genetic hits during the later life, ultimately giving rise to malignant ATL clones after decades of latency periods. However, little is known about the nature of these genetic hits that take place after the early immortalization processes of T-cells mediated by HTLV-1 Tax protein. So in order to clarify the genetic alterations involved in the later processes of T-cell transformation in ATL, we analyzed a total of 130 ATL samples using Affymetrix® GeneChip® 250K Nsp arrays. Combined with CNAG/AsCNAR software, these arrays allow for accurate determination of allele-specific copy numbers in extremely high-resolution (less than 12kb) to detect copy number alterations as well as allelic imbalances in ATL genomes without depending on the availability of constitutive DNA of tumor specimens (molecular allelo-karyotyping). ATL genomes show characteristic copy number profiles and unique patterns of allelic imbalances, which are distinct from acute lymphoblastic ALL and non-Hodgikin’s lymphomas and include gains of 1q arm, 2q33, 3p and 3q arms, 9p12, 17q12, and 19p13, and losses of 1p13.1, 2q end, 3q22, 4q31, 6p22, 7q31, 9p21, 10p14, 12q13, 14q24, and 19q13. Moreover, allele-specific determination of copy numbers disclosed a number of regions showing copy number neutral LOH. Numerous homozygous deletions and gene amplifications were also identified and commonly mapped to less than 500Kb regions, which facilitated identification of candidate gene targets. Interestingly, these genetic lesions involved many T-cell related genes, indicating that the de-regulation of normal T cell functions may contribute the pathogenesis of ATL. In conclusion, molecular allelo-karyotyping of ATL genomes using SNP arrays provides valuable information about the molecular targets in ATL pathogenesis.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.