Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Characterization of acute promyelocytic leukemia cases with PML-RAR alpha break/fusion sites in PML exon 6: identification of a subgroup with decreased in vitro responsiveness to all-trans retinoic acid

  1. RE Gallagher,
  2. YP Li,
  3. S Rao,
  4. E Paietta,
  5. J Andersen,
  6. P Etkind,
  7. JM Bennett,
  8. MS Tallman, and
  9. PH Wiernik
  1. Department of Oncology, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY 10467, USA.


Of 113 acute promyelocytic leukemia cases documented to have diagnostic PML-RAR alpha hybrid mRNA, 10 cases (8.8%) had fusion sites in PML gene exon 6 (V-forms) rather than in the two common hybrid mRNA configurations resulting from breaksites in either PML gene intron 6 (L- forms) or intron 3 (S-forms). In 4 V-form cases, a common break/fusion site was discovered at PML gene nucleotide (nt) 1685, abutting a 3′ cryptic splice donor sequence. The fusion site was proximal to the common site in 1 case and more distal in 5 cases. The open reading frame encoding a PML-RAR alpha gene was consistently preserved, either by an in-frame fusion site or by the insertion of 3 to 127 unidentified nts. In 2 V-form cases, hybridization analysis of the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction products with a PML-RAR alpha juction probe was required for discrimination from L-form cases. Two V- form subgroups were defined by in vitro sensitivity to all-trans retinoic acid (tRA)-induced differentiation: 4 of 4 cases tested with fusion sites at or 5′ to nt 1685 (subgroup E6S) had reduced sensitivity (EC50 > or = 10(-7) mol/L), whereas 4 of 4 cases with fusion sites at or 3′ to nt 1709 (subgroup E6L) had high sensitivity (EC50 < 10(-8) mol/L) indistinguishable from that of L-form and S-form cases. These results provide the first link between PML-RAR alpha configuration and tRA sensitivity in vitro and support the importance of subclassifying APL cases according to PML-RAR alpha transcript type.