The ability to distinguish clonal B-cell populations based on the sequence of their rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) locus is an important tool for diagnosing B-cell neoplasms and monitoring treatment response. Leukemic precursor B cells may continue to undergo recombination of the IgH gene after malignant transformation; however, the magnitude of evolution at the IgH locus is currently unknown. We used next-generation sequencing to characterize the repertoire of IgH sequences in diagnostic samples of 51 children with B precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). We identified clonal IgH rearrangements in 43 of 51 (84%) cases and found that the number of evolved IgH sequences per patient ranged dramatically from 0 to 4024. We demonstrate that the evolved IgH sequences are not the result of amplification artifacts and are unique to leukemic precursor B cells. In addition, the evolution often follows an allelic exclusion pattern, where only 1 of 2 rearranged IgH loci exhibit ongoing recombination. Thus, precursor B-cell leukemias maintain evolution at the IgH locus at levels that were previously underappreciated. This finding sheds light on the mechanisms associated with leukemic clonal evolution and may fundamentally change approaches for monitoring minimal residual disease burden.
View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2012-05-429811
View details for Web of Science ID 000313111300023
View details for PubMedID 22932801