Blood Journal
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Acute myeloid leukemia carrying cytoplasmic/mutated nucleophosmin (NPMc+ AML): biologic and clinical features

  1. Brunangelo Falini1,
  2. Ildo Nicoletti2,
  3. Massimo F. Martelli1, and
  4. Cristina Mecucci1
  1. 1Institutes of Hematology and
  2. 2Internal Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy


The nucleophosmin (NPM1) gene encodes for a multifunctional nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein that is localized mainly in the nucleolus. NPM1 mutations occur in 50% to 60% of adult acute myeloid leukemia with normal karyotype (AML-NK) and generate NPM mutants that localize aberrantly in the leukemic-cell cytoplasm, hence the term NPM-cytoplasmic positive (NPMc+ AML). Cytoplasmic NPM accumulation is caused by the concerted action of 2 alterations at mutant C-terminus, that is, changes of tryptophan(s) 288 and 290 (or only 290) and creation of an additional nuclear export signal (NES) motif. NPMc+ AML shows increased frequency in adults and females, wide morphologic spectrum, multilineage involvement, high frequency of FLT3-ITD, CD34 negativity, and a distinct gene-expression profile. Analysis of mutated NPM has important clinical and pathologic applications. Immunohistochemical detection of cytoplasmic NPM predicts NPM1 mutations and helps rationalize cytogenetic/molecular studies in AML. NPM1 mutations in absence of FLT3-ITD identify a prognostically favorable subgroup in the heterogeneous AML-NK category. Due to their frequency and stability, NPM1 mutations may become a new tool for monitoring minimal residual disease in AML-NK. Future studies should focus on clarifying how NPM mutants promote leukemia, integrating NPMc+ AML in the upcoming World Health Organization leukemia classification, and eventually developing specific antileukemic drugs.

  • Submitted July 10, 2006.
  • Accepted September 11, 2006.
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