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Leukemia. 2009 Oct;23(10):1825-35. doi: 10.1038/leu.2009.116. Epub 2009 Jun 11.

Heritable T-cell malignancy models established in a zebrafish phenotypic screen.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.


T-cell neoplasias are common in pediatric oncology, and include acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) and lymphoblastic lymphoma (T-LBL). These cancers have worse prognoses than their B-cell counterparts, and their treatments carry significant morbidity. Although many pediatric malignancies have characteristic translocations, most T-lymphocyte-derived diseases lack cytogenetic hallmarks. Lacking these informative lesions, insight into their molecular pathogenesis is less complete. Although dysregulation of the NOTCH1 pathway occurs in a substantial fraction of cases, many other genetic lesions of T-cell malignancy have not yet been determined. To address this deficiency, we pioneered a phenotype-driven forward-genetic screen in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Using transgenic fish with T-lymphocyte-specific expression of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP), we performed chemical mutagenesis, screened animals for GFP(+) tumors, and identified multiple lines with a heritable predisposition to T-cell malignancy. In each line, the patterns of infiltration and morphological appearance resembled human T-ALL and T-LBL. T-cell receptor analyses confirmed their clonality. Malignancies were transplantable and contained leukemia-initiating cells, like their human correlates. In summary, we have identified multiple zebrafish mutants that recapitulate human T-cell neoplasia and show heritable transmission. These vertebrate models provide new genetic platforms for the study of these important human cancers.

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