Background: MicroRNA expression profiles can be used to distinguish normal B cells from malignant B cells in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). We investigated whether microRNA profiles are associated with known prognostic factors in CLL.
Methods: We evaluated the microRNA expression profiles of 94 samples of CLL cells for which the level of expression of 70-kD zeta-associated protein (ZAP-70), the mutational status of the rearranged immunoglobulin heavy-chain variable-region (IgV(H) ) gene, and the time from diagnosis to initial treatment were known. We also investigated the genomic sequence of 42 microRNA genes to identify abnormalities.
Results: A unique microRNA expression signature composed of 13 genes (of 190 analyzed) differentiated cases of CLL with low levels of ZAP-70 expression from those with high levels and cases with unmutated IgV(H) from those with mutated IgV(H) . The same microRNA signature was also associated with the presence or absence of disease progression. We also identified a germ-line mutation in the miR-16-1-miR-15a primary precursor, which caused low levels of microRNA expression in vitro and in vivo and was associated with deletion of the normal allele. Germ-line or somatic mutations were found in 5 of 42 sequenced microRNAs in 11 of 75 patients with CLL, but no such mutations were found in 160 subjects without cancer (P<0.001).
Conclusions: A unique microRNA signature is associated with prognostic factors and disease progression in CLL. Mutations in microRNA transcripts are common and may have functional importance.
Copyright 2005 Massachusetts Medical Society.