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Keywords:

  • ETV6;
  • acute lymphoblastic leukaemia;
  • immunoblotting;
  • isoform

The t(12;21) is a recurring chromosomal abnormality in acute lymphoblastic leukaemias (ALLs) which results in the production of an ETV6-AML1 fusion gene. The association between t(12;21) and the deletion of the untranslocated allele of ETV6 is among the most frequent abnormalities observed in B-lineage ALLs in children. In order to study the proteins encoded by ETV6ETV6-AML1, we raised polyclonal antibodies directed against a recombinant peptide corresponding to the junctional region of ETV6-AML1. Cell lysates from various leukaemic cell lines, and from children with B- and T-lineage ALLs, were studied by Western blot.

Two isoforms of ETV6 protein were detected in normal bone marrow cells and in leukaemic cells without 12p alteration: a major form (apparent m.w. 63 kD) and a minor one (apparent m.w. 53 kD).

In the REH cell line, which expresses the ETV6-AML1 fusion transcript and no normal ETV6 mRNA, the ETV6 isoforms were absent and two new bands were detected corresponding to ETV6-AML1 protein products (apparent m.w. 95 and 105 kD). A similar pattern was obtained with blast cells from patients with a t(12;21) and a deletion of ETV6.

In two patients with a t(12;21) but no deletion of ETV6, four bands were detected corresponding to both the normal ETV6 and ETV6-AML1 proteins, suggesting that in these cases the second ETV6 allele was not inactivated.

Surprisingly, the expression pattern of ETV6 differed widely from patient to patient. In three out of 13 patients without t(12;21), the relative intensity of the bands corresponding to ETV6 isoforms in blast cells from patients was completely different from normal cells, with a marked predominance of the 53 kD isoform. The pattern of ETV6 expression was normal in bone marrow from the same patients during remission. These finding suggest that ETV6 abnormalities are not restricted to patients with translocations or deletions involving this gene.