• CD13;
  • AML;
  • alternative splicing;
  • polymorphism

Within the haematopoietic system, CD13/aminopeptidase N (APN), a transmembrane glycoprotein, is expressed on the surface of early committed progenitors of granulocytes and monocytes and by all cells of these lineages as they mature. CD13 is expressed on the majority of leukaemic myeloblasts in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), and on leukaemic lymphoblasts in a small percentage of acute lymphoid leukaemia cases. Thus, anti-CD13 monoclonal antibodies are used as diagnostic markers in leukaemia typing. By systematically amplifying overlapping reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) amplicons throughout the CD13 mRNA, we identified two splice variants in which exon 3 and exon 14 were lost. Fourteen healthy individuals and 34 patients with AML were screened for these splice variants. All healthy individuals, and the majority of AML patients, had both splice variants but they represented less than 10% of the total RT-PCR-amplified CD13 product. Increased expression of both truncated CD13 mRNA forms were observed in 6% of AML patients, whereas no detectable exon 3 or exon 14 splice variants could be generated in 26% and 9% of AML patients respectively. The different splicing frequencies may reflect altered processing of pre-mRNA or expansion of certain cell types for some AML patients, even though no correlation existed to blast percentage, FAB classification, surface antigens or cytogenetic characteristics. In addition, we identified an intron of 506 bp between exon 1 and exon 2 as well as two sites of single nucleotide polymorphism with a heterozygosity index of about 0·5, making them useful as genetic markers.