Infant acute leukemia is characterized by high incidence of MLL gene rearrangements.


To evaluate the distribution of MLL genomic DNA breakpoints and their relation to several diagnostic parameters among infant acute leukemia.


72 infants with MLL-rearranged acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) (n=52), acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (n=19) and mixed phenotype acute leukemia (n=1) were included in this study based on the availability of DNA material at diagnosis. In the observed group there were 28 boys (39%) and 44 girls (61%) with median age of 4.9 mo (range 0.03-11.9). Genomic DNA breakpoint detection in MLL gene and translocation partner genes (TPG) was performed by long-distance inverse PCR (LDI-PCR). Exon-intron numbering of MLL gene was done according to I. Nilson et al, 1996.


Majority of ALL cases (n=28; 54%) was characterized by presence of MLL-AF4 fusion gene (FG), less frequently MLL-MLLT1 (n=12; 23%), MLL-MLLT3 (n=7; 13%) and others were found (Table 1). The most common breakpoint location within MLL gene in ALL patients was intron 11, detected in 25 cases (48%). The highest variability of MLL breakpoints was found in MLL-AF4-positive patients: only 11 of 28 (39%) had breakpoints in intron 11. The most stable pattern of MLL genomic DNA breakpoints was observed in MLL-MLLT1-positive patients: 8 of 12 (67%) had breakpoints in intron 11. In AML patients two the most prevalent FGs were MLL-MLLT3 (n=7, 37%) and MLL-MLLT10 (n=5, 26%). The remaining ones are listed in Table 1. The most frequent breakpoints location was intron 8 (8 out of 19, 42%). The most stable pattern was revealed for MLL-MLLT10 FG: MLL breakpoints in 4 of 5 (80%) cases were found in intron 9 (Table 1). ALL patients who had breakpoints in intron 11 were significantly younger (median 3.0 mo, range 0.03-11.6) than all others (median 5.6 mo, range 0.7-11.9) (p=0.025) and than patients with MLL breakpoints in intron 9 (median 6.6 mo, range 3.1-11.9) (p=0.017). For AML cases we did not find any relation between age and breakpoints locations. Distribution of MLL DNA breakpoints was similar in boys and girls and did not depend on type of TPG. Genetic recombinations involving MLL gene predominantly resulted in reciprocal chromosomal translocations (n=62; 86%). Beside them, 6 (11%) insertions were identified in all MLL-MLLT10-positive cases and MLL-SEPT6-positive one. In 11 (15%) patients we found breakpoints within the regions located from 0.7 Kb to 25.4 Kb 3' of the first exon of TPGs (MLLT1 n=9; EPS15 n=1; MYO1F n=1), however fusion transcripts at cDNA level were identified and sequenced in all these cases, indicating a spliced fusion mechanism. 3-way translocations were found in 5 patients and in 1 case we found combination of insertion with interstitial deletion of chromosome 11. The list of reciprocal genes involved in these 6 cases was as follows: CEP164, DNAH6, DCPA1, MCL1 as well as non-coding regions of 2q21.2 and 2p21. We also analyzed breakpoints in TPGs. Except above mentioned spliced fusion cases, the remaining 3 breakpoints in MLLT1 as well as 3 of 4 breakpoints in EPS15 and all breakpoints in MLLT11 were within intron 1 of corresponding genes. In AF4 the major breakpoint region included intron 3 (n=19), intron 4 (n=6) and intron 5 (n=2). We also revealed 2 rare breakpoints in intron 6 and 10. In MLLT3 the most frequent breakpoint location was intron 5 (n=12), additionally 2 cases in intron 5 were identified. In MLLT10 two separate breakpoint locations were found: intron 3 (n=1) and intron 8 (n=3) in combination with intron 9 (n=1). We estimated prognostic significance of MLL breakpoint locations in 31 cases of infant ALL treated by MLL-Baby protocol. 3-year cumulative incidence of relapse was remarkably higher in patients with breakpoints in intron 11 (n=18) in comparison to patients with breakpoint localized from intron 7 to exon 11, inclusively (n=13) (0.85±0.01 and 0.57±0.02, respectively), although difference between these two groups did not achieve statistical significance (p=0.261). Median follow-up time in the observed group was 30 months (range 6–42).


In the current study we estimated clinical and prognostic significance of MLL and TPG genomic DNA breakpoints in infant acute leukemia. Our data provide additional information of molecular genetic features of MLL-rearranged infant acute leukemia.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.