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BMC Cancer. 2006 Jan 24;6:20.

Simultaneous localization of MLL, AF4 and ENL genes in interphase nuclei by 3D-FISH: MLL translocation revisited.

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  • 1USM 0503, Département Régulations, Développement et Diversité Moléculaire, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, UMR 5153 CNRS-MNHN, U 565 INSERM, 43 rue Cuvier, CP26, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.



Haematological cancer is characterised by chromosomal translocation (e.g. MLL translocation in acute leukaemia) and two models have been proposed to explain the origins of recurrent reciprocal translocation. The first, established from pairs of translocated genes (such as BCR and ABL), considers the spatial proximity of loci in interphase nuclei (static "contact first" model). The second model is based on the dynamics of double strand break ends during repair processes (dynamic "breakage first" model). Since the MLL gene involved in 11q23 translocation has more than 40 partners, the study of the relative positions of the MLL gene with both the most frequent partner gene (AF4) and a less frequent partner gene (ENL), should elucidate the MLL translocation mechanism.


Using triple labeling 3D FISH experiments, we have determined the relative positions of MLL, AF4 and ENL genes, in two lymphoblastic and two myeloid human cell lines.


In all cell lines, the ENL gene is significantly closer to the MLL gene than the AF4 gene (with P value < 0.0001). According to the static "contact first" model of the translocation mechanism, a minimal distance between loci would indicate a greater probability of the occurrence of t(11;19)(q23;p13.3) compared to t(4;11)(q21;q23). However this is in contradiction to the epidemiology of 11q23 translocation.


The simultaneous multi-probe hybridization in 3D-FISH is a new approach in addressing the correlation between spatial proximity and occurrence of translocation. Our observations are not consistent with the static "contact first" model of translocation. The recently proposed dynamic "breakage first" model offers an attractive alternative explanation.

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