Multiple myeloma is characterized by the clonal expansion of malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow. But the phenotypic diversity and the contribution of less predominant B-lineage clones to the biology of this disease have been controversial. Here, we asked whether cells bearing the dominant multiple myeloma immunoglobulin rearrangement occupy phenotypic compartments other than that of plasma cells. To accomplish this, we combined 13-parameter FACS index sorting and t-Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (t-SNE) visualization with high-throughput single-cell immunoglobulin sequencing to track selected B-lineage clones across different stages of human B-cell development. As expected, the predominant clones preferentially mapped to aberrant plasma cell compartments, albeit phenotypically altered from wild type. Interestingly, up to 1.2% of cells of the predominant clones colocalized with B-lineage cells of a normal phenotype. In addition, minor clones with distinct immunoglobulin sequences were detected in up to 9% of sequenced cells, but only 2 out of 12 of these clones showed aberrant immune phenotypes. The majority of these minor clones showed intraclonal silent nucleotide differences within the CDR3s and varying frequencies of somatic mutations in the immunoglobulin genes. Therefore, the phenotypic range of multiple myeloma cells in the bone marrow is not confined to aberrant-phenotype plasma cells but extends to low frequencies of normal-phenotype B cells, in line with the recently reported success of B cell-targeting cellular therapies in some patients. The majority of minor clones result from parallel nonmalignant expansion. Cancer Immunol Res; 5(9); 744-54. ©2017 AACR.
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