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Abstract

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common leukemia in the western world. Alterations in microRNAs (miRNAs) expression have been proposed to play a role in CLL pathogenesis. Dicer and Drosha are the main regulators of miRNA biogenesis, and deregulation of their expression has been indicated as a possible cause of miRNA alterations observed in various cancers. To investigate the role of Dicer and Drosha in CLL, we assessed the expression of Dicer and Drosha and their correlation with other prognostic factors, including Binet stages, immunoglobulin heavy chain variable gene (IGHV) mutation status, TP53 mutation status, ZAP-70 protein and CD38 expression level in 165 CLL patients by using real-time polymerase chain reaction methods. Patients with unmutated IGHV genes had significantly lower expression of Dicer than patients with IGHV mutations. The lower expression level of Dicer was also significantly associated with higher level of CD38 and ZAP-70, and more aggressive Binet stage. We also analyzed Dicer expression in different cytogenetic subgroups. Lower Dicer level was found in patients with unfavorable cytogenetic aberrations (deletion in 17p13 or 11q22.3) in contrast to higher level in good risk cytogenetics (deletion in 13q14 as the sole abnormality). Furthermore, the lower expression of Dicer in CLL shows a strong association with shorter overall survival (OS) (= 0.0046) as well as with reduced treatment free survival (TFS) (= 0.0006). By contrast, no differences in the expression of Drosha among these groups of patients were observed. Our data suggest that Dicer expression may play an important role in the progression and prognosis of CLL. (Cancer Sci 2012; 103: 875–881)