Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) have been associated with a high incidence of thrombosis and bleeding episodes, which significantly contribute to disease-related morbidity and mortality. Clinical data indicate an association of the JAK2V617F mutation, seen in nearly all polycythemia vera (PV) cases and almost 60% of those with essential thrombocythemia (ET) and myelofibrosis (MF). The mutation is also seen in 37% of patients with in splachnic vein thrombosis (SVT) and its presence was associated with an increased risk for SVT. However, the prevalence of JAK2V617 seems to be low in patients with other thromboembolic events in unusual sites such as cerebral sinus, upper limb deep venous thrombosis (DVT). Additionally, activating mutations of MPL gene, seen in 3% of ET and 5% of MF patients, are considered as a significant risk factor for microvessel disturbances and have been associated with an increased risk of arterial thrombosis. Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a thrombotic complication in an uncommon site that may result in sight threatening disease. In this study we investigated the prevalence of JAK2V617F and MPLW515L/K mutations in a prospectively assembled cohort of patients with RVO, hypothesizing that some cases may be associated with an underlying undiagnosed MPN.

Patients and Methods

We studied 52 (23 males and 29 females) consecutive patients with no evidence of an underlying MPN who had been diagnosed with RVO confirmed with fluorangiography from January 2007 to September 2011. The mean age was 70 years (range: 49-85) Twenty eight patients (53.8%) presented with central RVO and 24 patients with branched RVO (46.5%). DNA was extracted from peripheral blood samples by standard procedures. The JAK2V617F mutation was detected using a tetra-primer amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay with a sensitivity of 1% and the allele burden was estimated with a semi-quantitative method. MPLW515L/K were detected using allele-specific PCR (AS-PCR) assays with a sensitivity of 1%.


Overall, MPN associated mutations were detected in 5/52 cases. JAK2V617F was detected in 2/52 cases (3.8%; 95%CI-1.4%-9%), while MPL exon 10 mutations were detected in 3/52 (5.7%; 95%CI-0.6%-12%). The JAK2V617F allele burden in the two positive patients was 45% and 52% respectively. Both patients who carried the JAK2V617F mutation were female. The first patient had been already diagnosed with ET according to the WHO criteria at the time of RVO screening. She was receiving hydroxyurea and aspirin and her platelet count was normal. The second patient who also carried the JAK2V617F mutation had a PLT count of 850.000/μl at the time of screening and was diagnosed with ET within the 3 following months. The patients with MPL mutations presented with normal blood counts.


Our findings indicate that a latent MPN could underlie RVO even in the absence of conventional diagnostic criteria. Our results represent the first report that MPL mutations could underlie RVO cases and suggest that routine screening of RVO cases for MPN mutations may be useful, especially in older patients.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.