The acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) t(15;17) translocation generates a myl/retinoic acid receptor-alpha (RAR-alpha) chimeric gene that is transcribed as a fusion myl/RAR-alpha messenger RNA. Using primer sets derived from RAR-alpha and myl cDNAs, we were able to amplify the breakpoint sites of the fusion transcripts of all 35 APL RNA samples by reverse polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and nested primer approach of two rounds of amplification. DNA fragments of different size were obtained according to the chromosome 15 breakpoints (intron 3-bcr 3; exon 6-bcr 2; and intron 6-bcr 1). bcr 1 and bcr 3 represent the regions of the myl locus most frequently involved among APL (48.5 and 34.2 of cases, respectively); bcr 3 constitutes 62.5% of cases among M3V as compared with 25.9% of M3 cases. The feasibility of monitoring the APL clone by PCR analysis in five APL patients who received different treatment (chemotherapy, all-trans-retinoic acid or bone marrow transplantation) was evaluated. In five of nine bone marrow samples of patients in complete remission, t(15;17)-positive cells could be detected by PCR analysis. We conclude that PCR amplification of the myl/RAR-alpha junctions represents the easiest and rapid method for diagnosis and monitoring of the APL clone.

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