Heteroduplex PCR analysis of rearranged immunoglobulin genes for clonality assessment in multiple myeloma

Haematologica. 1999 Apr;84(4):328-35.


Background and objective: Molecular analysis by PCR of monoclonally rearranged immunoglobulin (Ig) genes can be used for diagnosis in B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders (LPD), as well as for monitoring minimal residual disease (MRD) after treatment. This technique has the risk of false-positive results due to the "background" amplification of similar rearrangements derived from polyclonal B-cells. This problem can be resolved in advance by additional analyses that discern between polyclonal and monoclonal PCR products, such as the heteroduplex analysis. A second problem is that PCR frequently fails to amplify the junction regions, mainly due to somatic mutations frequently present in mature (post-follicular) B-cell lymphoproliferations. The use of additional targets (e.g. Ig light chain genes) can avoid this problem.

Design and methods: We studied the specificity of heteroduplex PCR analysis of several Ig junction regions to detect monoclonal products in samples from 84 MM patients and 24 patients with B cell polyclonal disorders.

Results: Using two distinct VH consensus primers (FR3 and FR2) in combination with one JH primer, 79% of the MM displayed monoclonal products. The percentage of positive cases was increased by amplification of the Vlamda-Jlamda junction regions or kappa(de) rearrangements, using two or five pairs of consensus primers, respectively. After including these targets in the heteroduplex PCR analysis, 93% of MM cases displayed monoclonal products. None of the polyclonal samples analyzed resulted in monoclonal products. Dilution experiments showed that monoclonal rearrangements could be detected with a sensitivity of at least 10(-2) in a background with >30% polyclonal B-cells, the sensitivity increasing up to 10(-3) when the polyclonal background was <1% of polyclonal B-cells.

Interpretation and conclusions: Heteroduplex analysis of PCR amplified products is a simple and quick alternative for detecting monoclonally rearranged Ig genes in MM. This can be applied for diagnosis of B cell LPD and as a previous step in MRD strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Gene Rearrangement*
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Myeloma / genetics*
  • Multiple Myeloma / immunology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods