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Leukemia. 1988 Nov;2(11):722-7.

T cell receptor gene rearrangements in B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia correlate with age and the stage of B cell differentiation.

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Department of Hematology-Oncology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38101.


Children with ALL diagnosed at less than 2 years of age have a poor prognosis when compared with older children. In an effort to identify biologic features of ALL in children less than 2 that might explain this difference, we performed extensive immunophenotypic and molecular genetic analyses on a series of patients. For comparison purposes patients were divided into four groups: CALLA- (CD10-) infants less than 2 years of age at diagnosis (n = 10), CALLA- children greater than 2 years of age at diagnosis (n = 10), CALLA+ infants (less than 2 years, n = 21) and CALLA+ children (older than 2 years, n = 21). No immunophenotyping differences in CALLA- or CALLA+ subgroups were identified when cases less than 2 were compared with cases greater than 2 years of age at diagnosis. The most interesting results were in the CALLA- group where 94% of the samples expressed the B cell antigen CD19 but 27% co-expressed CD7. Double labeling experiments confirmed leukemic blast cells co-expressed CD19 and CD7. The double-labeled cells represent either leukemic conversion of a precursor cell which has not yet committed to B or T cell lineage or aberrant expression of these antigens. Molecular genetic studies demonstrated that all samples, regardless of the patients' age or immunophenotype, had rearrangement of the Ig heavy chain gene. The most striking molecular results were in CALLA- patients; in patients less than 2 at diagnosis neither the beta- nor the gamma-chain gene of the T cell receptor (TCR) was rearranged, whereas DNA from 5 of 10 patients over the age of 2 demonstrated beta- or gamma-chain TCR gene rearrangements. The percentage of CALLA+ cases under the age of 2 years with rearrangements in TCR genes is less than that found in CALLA+ cases over the age of 2 years. The finding of no TCR rearrangements in CALLA- ALL and a decreased number of gamma-TCR rearrangements in CALLA+ cases under the age of 2 suggest that age may affect TCR gene rearrangements in lymphoblasts. The molecular differences in TCR gene rearrangements do not appear to correlate with the response to therapy.

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