In the majority of Philadelphia (Ph)-positive chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients, the c-abl gene is fused to the bcr gene, resulting in the transcription of an 8.5 kb chimeric bcr-abl mRNA, which is translated into a p210bcr-abl fusion protein. In about 50% of the Ph- positive acute lymphoid leukemias (ALL), the bcr-abl gene fusion is identical to CML, while in 50% an alternative fusion between these two genes occurs, in which the central bcr-sequences are absent. This results in transcription of a 7 kb bcr-abl mRNA, encoding a P190bcr-abl fusion protein. Cloning and sequencing of the chimeric part of bcr-abl cDNAs from two Ph-positive CML patients in chronic phase showed that in one patient, as in the Ph-positive ALL, all central bcr sequences are absent, while in the other patient, part of the bcr central sequences are deleted. Therefore, we speculate that the presence of the 7 kb chimeric ALL type mRNA in one of the patients is not sufficient to drive an acute rather than a chronic leukemic process in this case. The deletions of the central bcr-sequences described here define the minimal sequence requirement of the bcr-abl fusion gene in CML patients so far.

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