The t(9;22) BCR/ABL fusion is associated with over 90% of chronic myelogenous and 25% of acute lymphocytic leukemia. Chromosome 11q23 translocations in acute myeloid and lymphoid leukemia cells demonstrate myeloid lymphoid leukemia (MLL) fusions with over 40 gene partners, like AF9 and AF4 on chromosomes 9 and 4, respectively. Therapy-related leukemia is associated with the above gene rearrangements following the treatment with topoisomerase II (topo II) inhibitors. BCR, ABL, MLL, AF9 and AF4 have defined patient breakpoint cluster regions. Chromatin structural elements including topo II and DNase I cleavage sites and scaffold attachment sites have previously been shown to closely associate with the MLL and AF9 breakpoint cluster regions, implicating these elements in non-homologous recombination (NHR). In this report, using cell lines and primary cells, chromatin structural elements were analyzed in BCR, ABL and AF4 and, for comparison, in MLL2, which is a homolog to MLL, but not associated with chromosome translocations. Topo II and DNase I cleavage sites associated with all breakpoint cluster regions, whereas SARs associated with ABL and AF4, but not with BCR. No close breakpoint clustering with the topo II/DNase I sites were observed; however, a statistically significant 5′ or 3′ distribution of patient breakpoints to the topo II DNase I sites was found, implicating DNA repair and exonucleases. Although MLL2 was expressed in all cell lines tested, except for the presence of one DNAse I site in the promoter, no other structural elements were found in MLL2. A NHR model presented demonstrates the importance of chromatin structure in chromosome translocations involved with leukemia.
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