Pro-B-cell to pre-B-cell development in B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia expressing the MLL/AF4 fusion protein

Fred E. Bertrand, Christine Vogtenhuber, Nisha Shah, Tucker W LeBien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The most common chromosomal abnormality of infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the t(4;11)(q21;q23) that gives rise to the MLL/AF4 fusion gene. Leukemic blasts expressing MLL/AF4 are arrested at an early progenitor stage with lymphoid or monocytoid characteristics. A novel B-lineage ALL cell line termed B-lineage-3 (BLIN-3) requiring human bone marrow (BM) stromal cell contact and interleukin-7 (IL-7) for optimal proliferation has been established. BLIN-3 cells have a CD19+/CD10- phenotype typical of infant ALL, and they harbor the t(4;11)(q21;q23) chromosomal translocation. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis confirmed the presence of the MLL/AF4 fusion mRNA and protein in BLIN-3. Initial BLIN-3 cultures had a pro-B cell phenotype and did not express cytoplasmic or surface μ heavy chain. After approximately 5 months in culture on BM stromal cells plus IL-7, BLIN-3 sublines emerged expressing μ heavy chain and VpreB on the cell surfaces (ie, pre-B-cell receptor [BCR]+). BLIN-3 cells expressing pre-BCR had the t(4;11)(q21;q23) translocation and expressed the MLL/AF4 fusion protein. Cross-linking the BLIN-3 pre-BCR led to enhanced cell proliferation, demonstrating that BLIN-3 expressed a functional pre-BCR. Increased acquisition of surface pre-BCR in BLIN-3 sublines was associated with loss of DJ rearrangements and the appearance of VDJ rearrangements. These results indicate that expression of the MLL/AF4 fusion protein is compatible with BM stromal cell and cytokine dependency, functional immunoglobulin gene segment rearrangement, and subsequent expression of a potentially diverse antigen receptor repertoire. Thus, the expression of MLL/AF4 is compatible with the normal developmental program of human B-lineage cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3398-3405
Number of pages8
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001


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