Application of germline IGH probes in real-time quantitative PCR for the detection of minimal residual disease in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Leukemia. 2000 Aug;14(8):1426-35. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2401801.


Large-scale clinical studies on detection of minimal residual disease (MRD) in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) have shown that quantification of MRD levels is needed for reliable MRD-based risk group classification. Recently, we have shown that 'real-time' quantitative PCR (RQ-PCR) can be applied for this purpose using patient-specific immunoglobulin (Ig) and T cell receptor (TCR) gene rearrangements as PCR targets with TaqMan probes at the position of the junctional region and two germline primers. Now, we tested an alternative approach on 35 immunoglobulin heavy chain (IGH) gene rearrangements, by designing three germline JH TaqMan probes to be used in combination with one of six corresponding germline JH primers and one allele specific oligonucleotide (ASO) primer complementary to the junctional region. In nine cases in which both approaches were compared, at least similar (n = 4) or slightly higher (n= 5) maximal sensitivities were obtained using an ASO primer. The ASO primer approach reached maximal sensitivities of at least 10(-4) in 33 out of 35 IGH rearrangements. The reproducible range for accurate quantification spanned four to five orders of magnitude in 31 out of 35 cases. In 13 out of 35 rearrangements the stringency of PCR conditions had to be increased to remove or diminish background signals; this only concerned the frequently occurring JH4, JH5 and JH6 gene rearrangements. After optimization of the conditions (mainly by increasing the annealing temperature), only occasional aspecific amplification signals were observed at high threshold cycle (CT) values above 42 cycles and at least six cycles above the CT value of the detection limit. Hence, these rare aspecific signals could be easily discriminated from specific signals. We conclude that the here presented set of three germline JH Taq-Man probes and six corresponding germline JH primers can be used to develop patient-specific RQ-PCR assays, which allow accurate and sensitive MRD analysis in almost all IGH gene rearrangements. These results will facilitate standardized RQ-PCR analysis for MRD detection in large clinical studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Probes
  • Germ Cells*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / genetics*
  • Neoplasm, Residual / diagnosis*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*


  • DNA Probes
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains