The molecular analysis of recurring chromosome rearrangements, especially of translocations and inversions, has provided us with valuable insight into the pathogenesis of hematological malignancies. Many translocations result in the fusion of genes located at the translocation breakpoints. In recent years we have witnessed a rapid rise in the number of chromosome translocations in leukemias being characterized at the molecular level. However, the number of genes being newly identified as translocation fusion genes has not risen at the same pace. This is due to the fact that several genes are involved in more than one translocation forming fusion genes with a number of other partner genes. Not only does one find star-shaped topologies, with one gene forming fusions with several others (e.g. ETV6/PDGFRB, ETV6/JAK2, ETV6/ABL etc.), but also networks connecting several genes with more than one fusion partner (e.g. ETV6/RUNX1 (AML1), RUNX1/CBFA2T1 (ETO), ETV6/EVI1, RUNX1/EVI1, ETV6/ABL, BCR/ABL). The emergence of such networks with the "recycling" of genes in new fusion combinations suggests that there is a rather limited number of genes which can be altered to cause leukemia.
Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel