The MLL gene is involved in many chromosomal translocations leading to both acute myeloid and lymphoid leukemia. Some patients treated for primary malignancies with chemotherapeutic agents that inhibit DNA topoisomerase II (topo II) develop treatment-related leukemia (t-AML) caused by MLL gene rearrangement. Whether these patients are unusually susceptible to anti-topo II drugs, or whether this is a random adverse event is unknown. To discover genetic polymorphisms that may predispose patients to t-AML development, we sequenced the 8.3-kb MLL breakpoint cluster region (BCR) from 22 patients who had been treated with topo II inhibitors and who developed t-AML and from 37 patients who did not, and from eight infants and 20 normal individuals. Four polymorphic sites within Alu repetitive elements were identified; three affected the length of poly-A tracts and one altered the size of a trinucleotide repeat. The three poly-A tract polymorphisms occurred with equal frequency in leukemic patients and controls and hence are not predictors of risk. The trinucleotide GAA repeat has three alleles: (GAA)4, (GAA)5, and (GAA)6. The (GAA)6 allele is very rare. The adult t-AML patients are almost exclusively (GAA)4/5 heterozygotes (83%), whereas the normal population is only 55% (GAA)4/5 heterozygotic and is represented equally by (GAA)4 and (GAA)5 homozygotes (20% each). Only certain trends could be established because of the small sample size of these leukemic groups. Whereas adult t-AML patients are more likely to be (GAA)4/5 heterozygotes, this is not statistically significant, and this polymorphism within the MLL BCR has only a suggestive association with t-AML development.
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