A novel variant of the chimeric BCR-ABL mRNA transcript was detected in a patient with Philadelphia chromosome-negative (Ph-) chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) by multiplex reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Sequence analysis of the fusion region of the amplified cDNA fragment showed an in-frame joining of exon e6 of the BCR gene and exon a2 of the ABL gene, giving rise to an e6a2 BCR-ABL transcript. This finding was confirmed by Southern blot analysis using a specific probe corresponding to intron 6 of the BCR gene, whereas conventional Southern blot for rearrangement of the major breakpoint cluster region (M-bcr) was negative. Western blot studies detected a BCR-ABL protein slightly larger than p185 BCR-ABL. Metaphase fluorescence in situ hybridization showed an insertion of ABL material into the BCR region without reciprocal BCR translocation. The findings in this case show that atypical BCR-ABL transcripts are detectable even in Ph- CML patients without M-bcr-rearrangements. Multiplex PCR using primers that allow for amplification of all known BCR-ABL transcripts is an appropriate method to exclude these rare variants.

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