Among all cytogenetic subtypes of ALL, the BCR-ABL1 fusion gene, which is causative of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), defines the subgroup of ALL with the worst prognosis. The reasons of the aggressive nature of BCR-ABL1-positive ALL have not yet been completely understood. To identify, at the submicroscopic level, oncogenic lesions that cooperate with BCR-ABL1 to induce ALL and blastic transformation of CML, we used an integrated molecular approach including high resolution genomic analysis of copy number alterations by single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays (500K, Affymetrix Inc., Santa Clara, CA, USA), genomic amplification, cloning, deep sequencing, gene expression profiling (GEP) and analysis of epigenetic changes to study 97 de novo BCR-ABL1- positive ALL adult patients (pts). High level amplification and homozygous deletions were identified in all pts, with deletions outnumbering amplification almost 3:1. The most frequent somatic copy number alteration was deletion on 7p12 of IKZF1, which encodes the transcription factor Ikaros identified in 59/97 pts (61%). Ikaros is required for the earliest stages of lymphoid lineage commitment and acts as tumor suppressor in mice. The IKZF1 deletions were predominantly mono-allelic (64% vs 36%) and were limited to the gene in all cases, identifying IKZF1 as the genetic target. Real-time quantitative PCR and FISH analysis confirmed SNP results. We characterized and mapped all breakpoints to recognize that two major deletions occur in BCR-ABL1-positive ALL: type A characterized by loss of exons 4–7 (37/97, 38%) and due to breakpoints occurring in the region spanning from 50380371 to 50380388 and from 50431123 to 50431167 in introns 3 and 7, respectively; type B characterized by removal of exons 2–7 (18/97, 19%) and due to a variable pattern of breakpoints in introns 1 (from 50317112 to 50317936) and 7. A variable number of nucleotides (patient-specific) were inserted at the conjunction and maintained with fidelity at the time of relapse. The extent of both deletions correlated with the expression of a dominant-negative isoform Ik6 with cytoplasmic localization and oncogenic activity, and of an aberrant transcript containing only exons 1 and 8, respectively. Interestingly, 2 pts with a homozygosis deletion showed simultaneously both type A and B deletions. In other 2 pts, the deletion involved the whole IKZF1 gene. The IKZF1 alteration was not a frequent event across different leukemias, since it was identified also at the progression of CML to lymphoid blast crisis (66%), but never in myeloid blast crisis CML (n=10), chronic phase CML (n=30) and acute myeloid leukemia (n=28). Known DNA sequences and structural features were mapped along the breakpoint cluster regions including heptamer recombination signal sequences recognized by the RAG enzymes during V(D)J recombination and activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) consensus motifs (DGYW/WRCH), suggesting that IKZF1 deletions could arise from aberrant RAG and/or AID-mediated recombination. GEP analysis of pts with IKZF1 deletion vs wild-type pts identified a unique signature characterized by a down-regulation of genes involved in pre-B-cell differentiation (e.g. VPREB1, VPREB3, IGLL3), demonstrating that genomic IKZF1 alterations have a strong impact on trascriptoma and contribute to a block of B-cell differentiation. For 83 out of 97 BCR-ABL1 ALL pts correlation between molecular data and clinical outcome was available. Univariate analysis showed that the IKZF1 deletion is a negative prognostic marker influencing the cumulative incidence of relapse (10.1 months for pts with deletion vs 56.1 months for wild-type pts, p=0.0103) and disease-free survival (DFS) (10.1 months vs 32.1 months, respectively, p=0.0229). The negative prognostic impact of the IKZF1 deletion on DFS was also confirmed by multivariate analysis (p=0.0445). In conclusion, deletion of IKZF1 resulting in either haploinsuffciency and in the expression of the dominant negative isoforms is an important event in the development of BCR-ABL1 B-progenitor ALL which significantly influences clinical outcome.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Supported by: European LeukemiaNet, AIL, AIRC, FIRB 2006, Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna, Strategico di Ateneo, GIMEMA Onlus.

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