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1.  Frequency of p190 and p210 BCR-ABL rearrangements and survival in Brazilian adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia 
This study investigated the occurrence of the p190 and p210 breakpoint cluster region-Abelson (BCR-ABL) rearrangements in adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and possible associations with clinical and laboratory characteristics and survival.
Forty-one over 18-year-old patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia of both genders followed-up between January 2008 and May 2012 were included in this study. Clinical and laboratory data were obtained from the medical charts of the patients. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using specific primers was employed to identify molecular rearrangements.
At diagnosis, the median age was 33 years, and there was a predominance of males (61%). The most common immunophenotype was B lineage (76%). BCR-ABL rearrangements was detected in 14 (34%) patients with the following distribution: p190 (28%), p210 (50%) and double positive (22%). Overall survival of patients with a mean/median of 331/246 days of follow up was 39%, respectively, negative BCR-ABL (44%) and positive BCR-ABL (28%).
These results confirm the high frequency of BCR-ABL rearrangements and the low survival rate of adult Brazilian patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
PMCID: PMC4318373  PMID: 25305168
Acute biphenotypic leukemia; Adult; BCR-ABL; Survival analysis
2.  Breakpoint Analysis of Transcriptional and Genomic Profiles Uncovers Novel Gene Fusions Spanning Multiple Human Cancer Types 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003464.
Gene fusions, like BCR/ABL1 in chronic myelogenous leukemia, have long been recognized in hematologic and mesenchymal malignancies. The recent finding of gene fusions in prostate and lung cancers has motivated the search for pathogenic gene fusions in other malignancies. Here, we developed a “breakpoint analysis” pipeline to discover candidate gene fusions by tell-tale transcript level or genomic DNA copy number transitions occurring within genes. Mining data from 974 diverse cancer samples, we identified 198 candidate fusions involving annotated cancer genes. From these, we validated and further characterized novel gene fusions involving ROS1 tyrosine kinase in angiosarcoma (CEP85L/ROS1), SLC1A2 glutamate transporter in colon cancer (APIP/SLC1A2), RAF1 kinase in pancreatic cancer (ATG7/RAF1) and anaplastic astrocytoma (BCL6/RAF1), EWSR1 in melanoma (EWSR1/CREM), CDK6 kinase in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (FAM133B/CDK6), and CLTC in breast cancer (CLTC/VMP1). Notably, while these fusions involved known cancer genes, all occurred with novel fusion partners and in previously unreported cancer types. Moreover, several constituted druggable targets (including kinases), with therapeutic implications for their respective malignancies. Lastly, breakpoint analysis identified new cell line models for known rearrangements, including EGFRvIII and FIP1L1/PDGFRA. Taken together, we provide a robust approach for gene fusion discovery, and our results highlight a more widespread role of fusion genes in cancer pathogenesis.
Author Summary
Gene fusions represent an important class of cancer genes, created by rearrangements of the genome that bring together two different genes. Because they are unique to cancer cells, gene fusions are ideal diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets. While gene fusions were once thought restricted mainly to blood cancers, recent discoveries suggest they are more widespread. Here, we have developed an approach for mining DNA microarray data to detect the tell-tale signatures of gene fusions, as “breakpoints” occurring within the encoding DNA or expressed transcripts. We apply this approach to a large collection of nearly 1,000 human cancer specimens. From this analysis, we discover and verify twelve new gene fusions occurring in diverse cancer types. We verify that some of these rearrangements recur in other samples of the same cancer type (supporting a causal role) and that the cancers show dependency on the fusion for cancer cell growth. Notably, some of these fusions (e.g. CEP85L/ROS1 in angiosarcoma) represent the first for that cancer type and thus provide important new biological insight. Some are also good drug targets (including rearrangements of ROS1, RAF1, and CDK6 kinases), with clear implications for therapy.
PMCID: PMC3636093  PMID: 23637631
3.  Transforming and Tumorigenic Activity of JAK2 by Fusion to BCR: Molecular Mechanisms of Action of a Novel BCR-JAK2 Tyrosine-Kinase 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32451.
Chromosomal translocations in tumors frequently produce fusion genes coding for chimeric proteins with a key role in oncogenesis. Recent reports described a BCR-JAK2 fusion gene in fatal chronic and acute myeloid leukemia, but the functional behavior of the chimeric protein remains uncharacterized. We used fluorescence in situ hybridization and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays to describe a BCR-JAK2 fusion gene from a patient with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The patient has been in complete remission for six years following treatment and autologous transplantation, and minimal residual disease was monitored by real-time RT-PCR. BCR-JAK2 codes for a protein containing the BCR oligomerization domain fused to the JAK2 tyrosine-kinase domain. In vitro analysis of transfected cells showed that BCR-JAK2 is located in the cytoplasm. Transduction of hematopoietic Ba/F3 cells with retroviral vectors carrying BCR-JAK2 induced IL-3-independent cell growth, constitutive activation of the chimeric protein as well as STAT5 phosphorylation and translocation to the nuclei, where Bcl-xL gene expression was elicited. Primary mouse progenitor cells transduced with BCR-JAK2 also showed increased proliferation and survival. Treatment with the JAK2 inhibitor TG101209 abrogated BCR-JAK2 and STAT5 phosphorylation, decreased Bcl-xL expression and triggered apoptosis of transformed Ba/F3 cells. Therefore, BCR-JAK2 is a novel tyrosine-kinase with transforming activity. It deregulates growth factor-dependent proliferation and cell survival, which can be abrogated by the TG101209 inhibitor. Moreover, transformed Ba/F3 cells developed tumors when injected subcutaneously into nude mice, thus proving the tumorigenic capacity of BCR-JAK2 in vivo. Together these findings suggest that adult and pediatric patients with BCR-ABL-negative leukemia and JAK2 overexpression may benefit from targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3288102  PMID: 22384256
4.  Integrative epigenomic analysis identifies biomarkers and therapeutic targets in adult B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia 
Cancer discovery  2012;2(11):1004-1023.
Genetic lesions such as BCR-ABL1, E2A-PBX1 and MLL rearrangements (MLLr) are associated with unfavorable outcomes in adult B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Leukemia oncoproteins may directly or indirectly disrupt cytosine methylation patterning to mediate the malignant phenotype. We postulated that DNA methylation signatures in these aggressive B-ALLs would point towards disease mechanisms and useful biomarkers and therapeutic targets. We therefore performed DNA methylation and gene expression profiling on a cohort of 215 adult B-ALL patients enrolled in a single phase III clinical trial (ECOG E2993) and normal control B-cells. In BCR-ABL1-positive B-ALL, aberrant cytosine methylation patterning centered around a cytokine network defined by hypomethylation and overexpression of IL2RA(CD25). The E2993 trial clinical data showed that CD25 expression was strongly associated with a poor outcome in ALL patients regardless of BCR-ABL1 status, suggesting CD25 as a novel prognostic biomarker for risk stratification in B-ALL. In E2A-PBX1-positive B-ALL, aberrant DNA methylation patterning was strongly associated with direct fusion protein binding as shown by the E2A-PBX1 ChIP sequencing (ChIP-seq), suggesting that E2A-PBX1 fusion protein directly remodels the epigenome to impose an aggressive B-ALL phenotype. MLLr B-ALL featured prominent cytosine hypomethylation, which was linked with MLL fusion protein binding, H3K79 dimethylation and transcriptional upregulation, affecting a set of known and newly identified MLL fusion direct targets with oncogenic activity such as FLT3 and BCL6. Notably, BCL6 blockade or loss of function suppressed proliferation and survival of MLLr leukemia cells, suggesting BCL6 targeted therapy as a new therapeutic strategy for MLLr B-ALL.
PMCID: PMC3516186  PMID: 23107779
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); DNA methylation profiling; gene expression profiling; biomarker; therapeutic target
5.  Susceptibility Of Ph-Positive All To Tki Therapy Associated With Bcr-Abl Rearrangement Patterns: A Retrospective Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e110431.
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have demonstrated success in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in patients that express BCR-ABL rearrangements (Philadelphia chromosome [Ph]). The current study aimed to assess the efficacy of TKIs and prognostic factors in the treatment of adults with Ph+-ALL.
In this multicenter retrospective study, the relationship between Ph+-ALL and treatment outcomes among Chinese patients receiving TKI-containing induction/consolidation chemotherapy was examined. A total of 86 Ph+-ALL patients were included and followed for 3.85 (0.43–9.30) years. Overall survival (OS) and event-free survival (EFS) were analyzed.
A total of 86 Ph+-ALL patients (40 females and 46 males; median age: 34.0 years) were enrolled, including those with BCR/ABL transcripts 190 (n = 52), 210 (n = 25), and 230 (n = 2); BCR/ABL isoform determination was not available for 7 patients. Mortality was influenced by variable BCR/ABL transcripts and TKI administration, and BCR/ABL transcripts, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), and TKI administration were associated with the occurrence of events. The OS rate in the TKI administration group during steady state was significantly higher compared with those patients who did not receive TKI administration (P = 0.008), the EFS rate in the TKI administration group during steady state was significantly higher compared with those patients who did not receive TKIs (P = 0.012), and also higher than those with TKI salvage administration (P = 0.004). BCR/ABL transcripts 210 showed preferable OS and EFS compared with BCR/ABL transcripts 190 and 230 (P<0.05 for each).
The susceptibility of Ph+-ALL to TKI associated with the patterns of BCR-ABL rearrangement is demonstrated for the first time, thus adding another risk-stratifying molecular prognostic tool for the management of patients with Ph+-ALL.
PMCID: PMC4240579  PMID: 25415187
6.  Heterogeneity of BCR-ABL rearrangement in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in Pakistan 
Background and Objective: Breakpoint cluster region-Abelson (BCR-ABL) rearrangement or Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) is derived from a reciprocal chromosomal translocation between ABL gene on chromosome 9 and BCR gene on chromosome 22. This chimeric protein has various sizes and therefore different clinical behaviour. The purpose of this study was to determine the heterogeneity of BCR-ABL rearrangement in patients with Ph+CML in Pakistan.
Methods: The study was conducted at Civil Hospital and Baqai Institute of Hematology (BIH) Karachi. Blood samples from 25 patients with CML were collected. Multiplex reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was performed to identify various BCR-ABL transcripts.
Results: All 25 samples showed BCR-ABL rearrangements. Out of these, 24 (96%) patients expressed p210 BCR-ABL rearrangements i.e. 60% (n=15) had b3a2 and 32% (n=8) had b2a2 rearrangements. Co-expression of b3a2 /b2a2 rearrangement and p190 (e1a3) rearrangement was also identified in two patients.
Conclusion: It is apparent that majority of the patients had p210 BCR-ABL rearrangements. Frequency of co-expression and rare fusion transcripts was very low.
PMCID: PMC4121711  PMID: 25097530
BCR-ABL; Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia; Ph chromosome
7.  Prevalence of Gene Rearrangements in Mexican Children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: A Population Study—Report from the Mexican Interinstitutional Group for the Identification of the Causes of Childhood Leukemia 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:210560.
Mexico has one of the highest incidences of childhood leukemia worldwide and significantly higher mortality rates for this disease compared with other countries. One possible cause is the high prevalence of gene rearrangements associated with the etiology or with a poor prognosis of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The aims of this multicenter study were to determine the prevalence of the four most common gene rearrangements [ETV6-RUNX1, TCF3-PBX1, BCR-ABL1, and MLL rearrangements] and to explore their relationship with mortality rates during the first year of treatment in ALL children from Mexico City. Patients were recruited from eight public hospitals during 2010–2012. A total of 282 bone marrow samples were obtained at each child's diagnosis for screening by conventional and multiplex reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction to determine the gene rearrangements. Gene rearrangements were detected in 50 (17.7%) patients. ETV6-RUNX1 was detected in 21 (7.4%) patients, TCF3-PBX1 in 20 (7.1%) patients, BCR-ABL1 in 5 (1.8%) patients, and MLL rearrangements in 4 (1.4%) patients. The earliest deaths occurred at months 1, 2, and 3 after diagnosis in patients with MLL, ETV6-RUNX1, and BCR-ABL1 gene rearrangements, respectively. Gene rearrangements could be related to the aggressiveness of leukemia observed in Mexican children.
PMCID: PMC4323064
8.  Molecular Cytogenetic Analysis of Gene Rearrangements in Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
The aims of this study were to estimate the incidences of BCR/ABL, MLL, TEL/AML1 rearrangements, and p16 deletions in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), to identify new abnormalities, and to demonstrate the usefulness of interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). We performed G-banding analysis and FISH using probes for BCR/ABL, MLL, TEL/AML1 rearrangements, and p16 deletions on 65 childhood ALL patients diagnosed and uniformly treated at a single hospital. Gene rearrangements were identified in 73.8% of the patients using the combination of G-banding and FISH, while the chromosomal abnormalities were identified in 49.2% using G-banding alone. Gene rearrangements were disclosed by FISH in 24 (72.7%) of 33 patients with normal karyotype or no mitotic cell in G-banding. Among the gene rearrangements detected by FISH, the most common gene rearrangement was p16 deletion (20.3%) and the incidences of others were 14.1% for TEL/AML1, 11.3% for MLL, and 1.8% for BCR/ABL translocations. Infrequent or new aberrations such as AML1 amplification, MLL deletion, ABL deletion, and TEL/AML1 fusion with AML1 deletion were also observed. We established the rough incidences of gene rearrangements in childhood ALL, found new abnormalities and demonstrated the diagnostic capability of interphase FISH to identify cryptic chromosome aberrations.
PMCID: PMC2808572  PMID: 15716599
In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence; Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Acute; Childhood; Gene Rearrangements
9.  Expression of bcr and bcr-abl fusion transcripts in normal and leukemic cells. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1987;7(8):2870-2876.
The translocation of the c-abl oncogene from chromosome 9 to the bcr gene on chromosome 22 in cases of Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) generates an aberrant bcr-abl fusion transcript which may be intimately related to the pathogenesis of CML. Because factors controlling normal bcr expression might also be involved in the expression of this aberrant bcr-abl transcript, we studied the patterns of expression of the normal bcr gene in different cell types. We found that the normal bcr gene was expressed in many different types of human cells. Moreover, the bcr gene was evolutionarily conserved, and homologous bcr genomic sequences and RNA transcripts were readily detected in chick tissue. The highest level of bcr expression in chick tissue was in brain tissue, the lowest level was in liver tissue, and a truncated bcr mRNA was noted in chick testes. Normal bcr transcripts, in addition to the aberrant bcr-abl hybrid transcripts, have been found in all Philadelphia chromosome-positive CML cells studied to date. Within a given CML sample, the relative amounts of normal bcr RNA and aberrant bcr-abl RNA were similar. In addition, the normal bcr and the aberrant bcr-abl hybrid transcripts demonstrated similarly prolonged half-lives compared with that of the normal abl-related transcripts in CML cells. These findings suggest that in CML cells, similar cellular mechanisms control the steady-state levels of both the normal bcr and the bcr-abl fusion RNAs.
PMCID: PMC367905  PMID: 3670297
10.  Nilotinib treatment in mouse models of P190 Bcr/Abl lymphoblastic leukemia 
Molecular Cancer  2007;6:67.
Ph-positive leukemias are caused by the aberrant fusion of the BCR and ABL genes. Nilotinib is a selective Bcr/Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitor related to imatinib, which is widely used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia. Because Ph-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia only responds transiently to imatinib therapy, we have used mouse models to test the efficacy of nilotinib against lymphoblastic leukemia caused by the P190 form of Bcr/Abl.
After transplant of 10,000 highly malignant leukemic cells into compatible recipients, untreated mice succumbed to leukemia within 21 days, whereas mice treated with 75 mg/kg nilotinib survived significantly longer. We examined cells from mice that developed leukemia while under treatment for Bcr/Abl kinase domain point mutations but these were not detected. In addition, culture of such cells ex vivo showed that they were as sensitive as the parental cell line to nilotinib but that the presence of stromal support allowed resistant cells to grow out. Nilotinib also exhibited impressive anti-leukemia activity in P190 Bcr/Abl transgenic mice that had developed overt leukemia/lymphoma masses and that otherwise would have been expected to die within 7 days. Visible lymphoma masses disappeared within six days of treatment and leukemic cell numbers in peripheral blood were significantly reduced. Treated mice survived more than 30 days.
These results show that nilotinib has very impressive anti-leukemia activity but that lymphoblastic leukemia cells can become unresponsive to it both in vitro and in vivo through mechanisms that appear to be Bcr/Abl independent.
PMCID: PMC2169263  PMID: 17958915
11.  BCR and its mutants, the reciprocal t(9;22)-associated ABL/BCR fusion proteins, differentially regulate the cytoskeleton and cell motility 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:262.
The reciprocal (9;22) translocation fuses the bcr (breakpoint cluster region) gene on chromosome 22 to the abl (Abelson-leukemia-virus) gene on chromosome 9. Depending on the breakpoint on chromosome 22 (the Philadelphia chromosome – Ph+) the derivative 9+ encodes either the p40(ABL/BCR) fusion transcript, detectable in about 65% patients suffering from chronic myeloid leukemia, or the p96(ABL/BCR) fusion transcript, detectable in 100% of Ph+ acute lymphatic leukemia patients. The ABL/BCRs are N-terminally truncated BCR mutants. The fact that BCR contains Rho-GEF and Rac-GAP functions strongly suggest an important role in cytoskeleton modeling by regulating the activity of Rho-like GTPases, such as Rho, Rac and cdc42. We, therefore, compared the function of the ABL/BCR proteins with that of wild-type BCR.
We investigated the effects of BCR and ABL/BCRs i.) on the activation status of Rho, Rac and cdc42 in GTPase-activation assays; ii.) on the actin cytoskeleton by direct immunofluorescence; and iii) on cell motility by studying migration into a three-dimensional stroma spheroid model, adhesion on an endothelial cell layer under shear stress in a flow chamber model, and chemotaxis and endothelial transmigration in a transwell model with an SDF-1α gradient.
Here we show that both ABL/BCRs lost fundamental functional features of BCR regarding the regulation of small Rho-like GTPases with negative consequences on cell motility, in particular on the capacity to adhere to endothelial cells.
Our data presented here describe for the first time an analysis of the biological function of the reciprocal t(9;22) ABL/BCR fusion proteins in comparison to their physiological counterpart BCR.
PMCID: PMC1637115  PMID: 17090304
12.  A comprehensive analysis of breakpoint cluster region-abelson fusion oncogene splice variants in chronic myeloid leukemia and their correlation with disease biology 
BCR-ABL fusion oncogene is a hallmark of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). It results due to translocation between chromosome 22 and chromosome 9 [t (9; 22)(q34; q11)]. It gives rise to translation of a 210 KDa chimeric protein (p210), leading to enhanced tyrosine kinase activity and activation of leukemogenic pathways, ultimately causing onset of CML. In case of CML, the classic fusions are b2a2 or b3a2, fusing exon 13 (b2) or exon 14 (b3) of BCR, respectively, to exon 2 (a2) of ABL. The type of BCR-ABL transcripts are thought to be have different prognosis and hence useful in clinical decision-making. The frequencies of different fusion oncogenes associated with leukemia can vary in different ethnic groups and geographical regions due to interplay of genetic variation in different ethnic populations, diverse environmental factors and living style. Moreover, earlier relevant studies from our region were carried out in small subset of patients. Therefore, objective of this study was to find out frequencies of different BCR-ABL splice variants in larger subset of CML patients.
A nested reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was established to detect BCR-ABL splice variants in 130 CML patients. Sensitivity of RT-PCR and ability to detect BCR-ABL fusion gene in least possible time was studied.
BCR-ABL detection using our optimized RT-PCR protocol could be completed in 8 hours, starting from RNA extraction to Gel electrophoresis. Sensitivity of RT-PCR assay was of the order of 10−6. Out of 130 Pakistani patients, 83 (63.84%) expressed b3a2 while 47 (36.15%) expressed b2a2 transcript.
Our RT-PCR was proved to be very quick to detect BCR-ABL fusion oncogene in CML patients within one working day. Because of its sensitivity, it can be used to monitor complete molecular response in CML. BCR-ABL RT-PCR and BCR-ABL splice variants frequency in our study differs from other ethnic groups. It shows that ethnic and geographical differences exist in BCR-ABL splice variant frequency, which may have a profound effect on disease biology as well as implications in prognosis and clinical management of BCR-ABL positive leukemias.
PMCID: PMC4065481  PMID: 24959016
b2a2; b3a2; breakpoint cluster region-abelson; breakpoint cluster region-abelson alternative splicing
13.  The BCR-ABL1 Kinase Bypasses Selection for the Expression of a Pre–B Cell Receptor in Pre–B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Cells 
The BCR-ABL1 kinase expressed in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) drives malignant transformation of human pre–B cells. Comparing genome-wide gene expression profiles of BCR-ABL1+ pre–B ALL and normal bone marrow pre–B cells by serial analysis of gene expression, many genes involved in pre–B cell receptor signaling are silenced in the leukemia cells. Although normal pre–B cells are selected for the expression of a functional pre–B cell receptor, BCR-ABL1+ ALL cells mostly do not harbor a productively rearranged IGH allele. In these cases, we identified traces of secondary VH gene rearrangements, which may have rendered an initially productive VH region gene nonfunctional. Even BCR-ABL1+ ALL cells harboring a functional VH region gene are unresponsive to pre–B cell receptor engagement and exhibit autonomous oscillatory Ca2+ signaling activity. Conversely, leukemia subclones surviving inhibition of BCR-ABL1 by STI571 restore responsiveness to antigen receptor engagement and differentiate into immature B cells expressing immunoglobulin light chains. BCR-ABL1 kinase activity is linked to defective pre–B cell receptor signaling and the expression of a truncated isoform of the pre–B cell receptor–associated linker molecule SLP65. Also in primary leukemia cells, truncated SLP65 is expressed before but not after treatment of the patients with STI571. We conclude that inhibition of BCR-ABL1 reconstitutes selection for leukemia cells expressing a functional (pre–) B cell receptor.
PMCID: PMC2213306  PMID: 14993251
immunoglobulin; SLP65; differentiation; STI571; V(D)J recombination
14.  Activation of tyrosinase kinase and microfilament-binding functions of c-abl by bcr sequences in bcr/abl fusion proteins. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1991;11(3):1553-1565.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia and one type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia are characterized by a 9;22 chronosome translocation in which 5' sequences of the bcr gene become fused to the c-abl proto-oncogene. The resulting chimeric genes encode bcr/abl fusion proteins which have deregulated tyrosine kinase activity and appear to play an important role in induction of these leukemias. A series of bcr/abl genes were constructed in which nested deletions of the bcr gene were fused to the c-abl gene. The fusion proteins encoded by these genes were assayed for autophosphorylation in vivo and for differences in subcellular localization. Our results demonstrate that bcr sequences activate two functions of c-abl; the tyrosine kinase activity and a previously undescribed microfilament-binding function. Two regions of bcr which activate these functions to different degrees have been mapped: amino acids 1 to 63 were strongly activating and amino acids 64 to 509 were weakly activating. The tyrosine kinase and microfilament-binding functions were not interdependent, as a kinase defective bcr/abl mutant still associated with actin filaments and a bcr/abl mutant lacking actin association still had deregulated kinase activity. Modification of actin filament functions by the bcr/abl tyrosine kinase may be an important event in leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC369443  PMID: 1705008
15.  Characterization of the BCR promoter in Philadelphia chromosome-positive and -negative cell lines. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1991;11(4):1854-1860.
The t(9;22) Philadelphia chromosome translocation fuses 5' regulatory and coding sequences of the BCR gene to the c-ABL proto-oncogene. This results in the formation of hybrid BCR-ABL mRNAs and proteins. The shift in ABL transcriptional control to the BCR promoter may play a role in cellular transformation mediated by this rearrangement. We have functionally localized the BCR promoter to a region 1 kb 5' of BCR exon 1 coding sequences by using a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter gene assay. Nucleotide sequence analysis of this region revealed many consensus binding sequences for transcription factor SP1 as well as two potential CCAAT box binding factor sites and one putative helix-loop-helix transcription factor binding site. No TATA-like or "initiator" element sequences were found. Because of low steady-state levels of BCR mRNA and the high GC content (78%) of the promoter region, definitive mapping of transcription start sites required artificial amplification of BCR promoter-directed transcripts. Overexpression from the BCR promoter in a COS cell system was effective in demonstrating multiple transcription initiation sites. In order to assess the effects of chromosomal translocation on the transcriptional control of the BCR gene, we determined S1 nuclease protection patterns of poly(A)+ RNA from tumor cell lines. No differences were observed in the locations and levels of BCR transcription initiation sites between those lines that harbored the t(9;22) translocation and those that did not. This demonstrates that BCR promoter function remains intact in spite of genomic rearrangement. The BCR promoter is structurally similar to the ABL promoters. Together, this suggests that the structural fusion of BCR-ABL and not its transcriptional deregulation is primarily responsible for the transforming effect of the t(9;22) translocation.
PMCID: PMC359860  PMID: 1900918
16.  Unusual T-Lymphoblastic Blast Phase of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia 
Case Reports in Hematology  2014;2014:304359.
T-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL) presenting as blast phase of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML-BP) is rare. In patients without history of CML, it is difficult to differentiate between CML-BP or de novo T-ALL. Here we reported 2 unusual cases of T-ALL presenting as CML-BP. Case 1 was a 24-year-old female with leukocytosis. Besides T-lymphoblasts (32%), her marrow exhibited some morphologic features of CML. Multiple remission or relapsing marrow had never demonstrated morphologic features of CML. Despite of imatinib treatment and stem cell transplant, she died 2.5 years later. Case 2, a 66-year-old male with diffuse lymphadenopathy, showed T-ALL in a lymph node and concurrent CML chronic phase (CML-CP) in his marrow. Same BCR-ABL1 fusion transcript with minor breakpoint was present in both the lymph node and marrow specimens. Although both cases did not have a history of CML, both cases represented T-lymphoblastic CML-BP with unusual features: Case 1 is unusual in that it presented as T-ALL with some CML morphologic feature but never showed CML-CP in her subsequent marrows biopsies; Case 2 is the first reported case of T-lymphoblastic CML-BP harboring BCR-ABL1 transcript with a minor breakpoint.
PMCID: PMC4095643  PMID: 25057418
17.  BCR-ABL Affects STAT5A and STAT5B Differentially 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97243.
Signal transducers and activators of transcription (STATs) are latent cytoplasmic transcription factors linking extracellular signals to target gene transcription. Hematopoietic cells express two highly conserved STAT5-isoforms (STAT5A/STAT5B), and STAT5 is directly activated by JAK2 downstream of several cytokine receptors and the oncogenic BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase. Using an IL-3-dependent cell line with inducible BCR-ABL-expression we compared STAT5-activation by IL-3 and BCR-ABL in a STAT5-isoform specific manner. RNAi targeting of STAT5B strongly inhibits BCR-ABL-dependent cell proliferation, and STAT5B but not STAT5A is essential for BCL-XL-expression in the presence of BCR-ABL. Although BCR-ABL induces STAT5-tyrosine phosphorylation independent of JAK2-kinase activity, BCR-ABL is less efficient in inducing active STAT5A:STAT5B-heterodimerization than IL-3, leaving constitutive STAT5A and STAT5B-homodimerization unaffected. In comparison to IL-3, nuclear accumulation of a STAT5A-eGFP fusion protein is reduced by BCR-ABL, and BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase activity induces STAT5A-eGFP translocation to the cell membrane and co-localization with the IL-3 receptor. Furthermore, BCR-ABL-dependent phosphorylation of Y682 in STAT5A was detected by mass-spectrometry. Finally, RNAi targeting STAT5B but not STAT5A sensitizes human BCR-ABL-positive cell lines to imatinib-treatment. These data demonstrate differences between IL-3 and BCR-ABL-mediated STAT5-activation and isoform-specific effects, indicating therapeutic options for isoform-specific STAT5-inhibition in BCR-ABL-positive leukemia.
PMCID: PMC4023949  PMID: 24836440
18.  PECAM-1 is involved in BCR/ABL signaling and may downregulate imatinib-induced apoptosis of Philadelphia chromosome-positive leukemia cells 
International Journal of Oncology  2012;42(2):419-428.
PECAM-1 (CD31) is an immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif (ITIM)-containing surface glycoprotein expressed on various hematopoietic cells as well as on endothelial cells. PECAM-1 has been shown to play roles in regulation of adhesion, migration and apoptosis. The BCR/ABL fusion tyrosine kinase is expressed in chronic myeloid leukemia and Philadelphia-positive (Ph+) acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells, and its inhibition by the clinically used tyrosine kinase inhibitors imatinib or dasatinib induces apoptosis of these cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that PECAM-1 is tyrosine phospho rylated in its ITIM motifs in various BCR/ABL-expressing cells including primary leukemia cells. Studies using imatinib and dasatinib as well as transient expression experiments in 293T cells revealed that PECAM-1 was phosphorylated directly by BCR/ABL, which was enhanced by the imatinib-resistant E255K and T315I mutations, or partly by the Src family tyrosine kinases, including Lyn, which were activated dependently or independently on BCR/ABL. We also demonstrate by using a substrate trapping mutant of SHP2 that tyrosine phosphorylated PECAM-1 binds SHP2 and is a major substrate for this tyrosine phosphatase in BCR/ABL-expressing cells. Overexpression of PECAM-1 in BCR/ABL-expressing cells, including K562 human leukemia cells, enhanced cell adhesion and partially inhibited imatinib-induced apoptosis involving mitochondria depolarization and caspase-3 cleavage, at least partly, in an ITIM-independent manner. These data suggest that PECAM-1 may play a role in regulation of apoptosis as well as adhesion of BCR/ABL-expressing cells to modulate their imatinib sensitivity and would be a possible candidate for therapeutic target in Ph+ leukemias.
PMCID: PMC3583636  PMID: 23233201
PECAM-1; BCR/ABL; imatinib; apoptosis; leukemia
19.  A screening based approach to circumvent tumor microenvironment-driven intrinsic resistance to BCR-ABL+ inhibitors in Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2013;19(1):158-167.
Signaling by the BCR-ABL fusion kinase drives Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL) and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Despite their clinical activity in many patients with CML, the BCR-ABL kinase inhibitors (BCR-ABL-KIs) imatinib, dasatinib, and nilotinib provide only transient leukemia reduction in patients in Ph+ ALL. While host-derived growth factors present in the leukemia microenvironment have been invoked to explain this drug resistance, their relative contribution remains uncertain. Using genetically-defined murine Ph+ ALL cells, we identified Interleukin 7 (IL-7) as the dominant host-factor that attenuates response to BCR-ABL-KIs. To identify potential combination drugs that could overcome this IL-7-dependent BCR-ABL-KI-resistant phenotype, we screened a small molecule library including FDA-approved drugs. Among the validated hits, the well-tolerated anti-malarial drug dihydroartemisinin (DHA) displayed potent activity in vitro and modest in vivo monotherapy activity against engineered murine BCR-ABL-KI–resistant Ph+ ALL. Strikingly, co-treatment with DHA and dasatinib in vivo strongly reduced primary leukemia burden and improved long-term survival in a murine model that faithfully captures the BCR-ABL-KI-resistant phenotype of human Ph+ ALL. This co-treatment protocol durably cured 90% of treated animals, suggesting that this cell-based screening approach efficiently identified drugs that could be rapidly moved to human clinical testing
PMCID: PMC3963394  PMID: 23989453
20.  Molecular measurement of BCR-ABL transcript variations in chronic myeloid leukemia patients in cytogenetic remission 
BMC Blood Disorders  2010;10:7.
The monitoring of BCR-ABL transcript levels by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) has become important to assess minimal residual disease (MRD) and standard of care in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). In this study, we performed a prospective, sequential analysis using RT-qPCR monitoring of BCR-ABL gene rearrangements in blood samples from 91 CML patients in chronic phase (CP) who achieved complete cytogenetic remission (CCyR) and major molecular remission (MMR) throughout imatinib treatment.
The absolute level of BCR-ABL transcript from peripheral blood was serially measured every 4 to 12 weeks by RT-qPCR. Only level variations > 0.5%, according to the international scale, was considered positive. Sequential cytogenetic analysis was also performed in bone marrow samples from all patients using standard protocols.
Based on sequential analysis of BCR-ABL transcripts, the 91 patients were divided into three categories: (A) 57 (62.6%) had no variation on sequential analysis; (B) 30 (32.9%) had a single positive variation result obtained in a single sample; and (C) 4 (4.39%) had variations of BCR-ABL transcripts in at least two consecutive samples. Of the 34 patients who had elevated levels of transcripts (group B and C), 19 (55.8%) had a < 1% of BCR-ABL/BCR ratio, 13 (38.2%) patients had a 1% to 10% increase and 2 patients had a >10% increase of RT-qPCR. The last two patients had lost a CCyR, and none of them showed mutations in the ABL gene. Transient cytogenetic alterations in Ph-negative cells were observed in five (5.5%) patients, and none of whom lost CCyR.
Despite an increase levels of BCR-ABL/BCR ratio variations by RT-qPCR, the majority of CML patients with MMR remained in CCyR. Thus, such single variations should neither be considered predictive of subsequent failure and nor an indication for altering imatinib dose or switching to second generation therapy. Changing of imatinib on the basis of BCR-ABL/BCR% sustained increase and mutational studies is a prudent approach for preserving other therapeutic options in imatinib-resistant patients.
PMCID: PMC2995483  PMID: 21087500
21.  Association of HLA Class I and Class II genes with bcr-abl transcripts in leukemia patients with t(9;22) (q34;q11) 
BMC Cancer  2004;4:25.
Based on the site of breakpoint in t(9;22) (q34;q11), bcr-abl fusion in leukemia patients is associated with different types of transcript proteins. In this study we have seen the association of HLA genes with different types of bcr-abl transcripts. The association could predict the bcr-abl peptide presentation by particular HLA molecules.
The study included a total of 189 patients of mixed ethnicity with chronic myelogenous leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia who were being considered for bone marrow transplantation. Typing of bcr-abl transcripts was done by reverse transcriptase PCR method. HLA typing was performed by molecular methods. The bcr-abl and HLA association was studied by calculating the relative risks and chi-square test.
Significant negative associations (p < 0.05) were observed with HLA-A*02 (b2a2, e1a2), -A*68 (b2a2, b3a2, e1a2), -B*14 (b2a2, b3a2, e1a2), -B*15 (b2a2, b3a2), -B*40 (b2a2), -DQB1*0303 (b2a2, b3a2), -DQB1*0603 (b2a2), -DRB1*0401 (e1a2), -DRB1*0701 (b3a2), and -DRB1*1101 (b2a2).
The negative associations of a particular bcr-abl transcript with specific HLA alleles suggests that these alleles play a critical role in presenting peptides derived from the chimeric proteins and eliciting a successful T-cell cytotoxic response. Knowledge of differential associations between HLA phenotypes and bcr-abl fusion transcript types would help in developing better strategies for immunization with the bcr-abl peptides against t(9;22) (q34;q11)-positive leukemia.
PMCID: PMC441382  PMID: 15202948
22.  Activation-induced cytidine deaminase acts as a mutator in BCR-ABL1–transformed acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2007;204(5):1157-1166.
The Philadelphia chromosome (Ph) encoding the oncogenic BCR-ABL1 kinase defines a subset of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with a particularly unfavorable prognosis. ALL cells are derived from B cell precursors in most cases and typically carry rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain (IGH) variable (V) region genes devoid of somatic mutations. Somatic hypermutation is restricted to mature germinal center B cells and depends on activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID). Studying AID expression in 108 cases of ALL, we detected AID mRNA in 24 of 28 Ph+ ALLs as compared with 6 of 80 Ph− ALLs. Forced expression of BCR-ABL1 in Ph− ALL cells and inhibition of the BCR-ABL1 kinase showed that aberrant expression of AID depends on BCR-ABL1 kinase activity. Consistent with aberrant AID expression in Ph+ ALL, IGH V region genes and BCL6 were mutated in many Ph+ but unmutated in most Ph− cases. In addition, AID introduced DNA single-strand breaks within the tumor suppressor gene CDKN2B in Ph+ ALL cells, which was sensitive to BCR-ABL1 kinase inhibition and silencing of AID expression by RNA interference. These findings identify AID as a BCR-ABL1–induced mutator in Ph+ ALL cells, which may be relevant with respect to the particularly unfavorable prognosis of this leukemia subset.
PMCID: PMC2118573  PMID: 17485517
23.  Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells from infants with MLL-AF4+ acute leukemia harbor and express the MLL-AF4 fusion gene 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2009;206(13):3131-3141.
MLL-AF4 fusion is a hallmark genetic abnormality in infant B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) known to arise in utero. The cellular origin of leukemic fusion genes during human development is difficult to ascertain. The bone marrow (BM) microenvironment plays an important role in the pathogenesis of several hematological malignances. BM mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSC) from 38 children diagnosed with cytogenetically different acute leukemias were screened for leukemic fusion genes. Fusion genes were absent in BM-MSCs of childhood leukemias carrying TEL-AML1, BCR-ABL, AML1-ETO, MLL-AF9, MLL-AF10, MLL-ENL or hyperdiploidy. However, MLL-AF4 was detected and expressed in BM-MSCs from all cases of MLL-AF4+ B-ALL. Unlike leukemic blasts, MLL-AF4+ BM-MSCs did not display monoclonal Ig gene rearrangements. Endogenous or ectopic expression of MLL-AF4 exerted no effect on MSC culture homeostasis. These findings suggest that MSCs may be in part tumor-related, highlighting an unrecognized role of the BM milieu on the pathogenesis of MLL-AF4+ B-ALL. MLL-AF4 itself is not sufficient for MSC transformation and the expression of MLL-AF4 in MSCs is compatible with a mesenchymal phenotype, suggesting a differential impact in the hematopoietic system and mesenchyme. The absence of monoclonal rearrangements in MLL-AF4+ BM-MSCs precludes the possibility of cellular plasticity or de-differentiation of B-ALL blasts and suggests that MLL-AF4 might arise in a population of prehematopoietic precursors.
PMCID: PMC2806455  PMID: 19995953
24.  Frequencies of BCR-ABL1 fusion transcripts among Sudanese chronic myeloid leukaemia patients 
Genetics and Molecular Biology  2010;33(2):229-231.
The incidence of one or other rearrangement in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients varies in different reported series. In this study we report the frequencies of BCR-ABL1 fusion transcript variants studied in 43 CML patients from Sudan. The study includes 46 Sudanese patients, three of which negative for the BCR-ABL1 fusion transcript. More than half of 43 positive patients showed b2a2 fusion transcript (53.5%), while (41.9%) showed b3a2 transcript and the remaining (4.6%) coexpression of b3a2/ b2a2 and b3a2/b2a2/e19a2. We detected neither coexpression of p210/p190 nor e1a2 alone. Male patients showed a tendency to express b2a2, while female tende to express b3a2 (p = 0.017). Moreover, a single nucleotide polymorphism was detected in BCR exon 13 in one out of four patients and this patient showed only b2a2 expression. In conclusion, we observed a significant correlation between sex and type of BCR-ABL1 transcript, an observation that deserves further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3036862  PMID: 21637474
BCR-ABL; chronic myeloid leukemia; Ph chromosome; Sudanese; RT-PCR
25.  Association of HLA antigens and BCR-ABL transcripts in leukemia patients with the Philadelphia chromosome 
This study aimed to verify the association between human leukocyte antigens and the bcr-abl fusion protein resulting from t(9;22)(q34;q11) in chronic leukemia myeloid and acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients.
Forty-seven bcr-abl positive individuals were evaluated. Typing was performed bymicrolymphocytotoxicity and molecular biological methods (human leukocyte antigens Class I and Class II). A control group was obtained from the data of potential bone marrow donors registered in the Brazilian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (REDOME).
Positive associations with HLA-A25 and HLA-B18 were found for the b2a2 transcript, as well as a tendency towards a positive association with HLA-B40 and a negative association with HLA-A68. The b3a2 transcript showed positive associations with HLA-B40 and HLA-DRB1*3.
The negative association between human leukocyte antigens and the BCR-ABL transcript suggests that binding and presentation of peptides derived from the chimeric protein are effective to increase a cytotoxic T lymphocyte response appropriate for the destruction of leukemic cells.
PMCID: PMC3460407  PMID: 23049441
HLA antigens; Fusion proteins, BCR-ABL; Genetic predisposition to disease; Philadelphia chromosome; Leukemia, myelogenous, chronic, BCR-ABL positive; Precursor cell lymphoblastic leukemia-lymphoma

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