Extensive intraclonal diversification in a subgroup of chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients with stereotyped IGHV4-34 receptors: implications for ongoing interactions with antigen

Blood. 2009 Nov 12;114(20):4460-8. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-05-221309. Epub 2009 Aug 27.


Several studies indicate that the development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) may be influenced by antigen recognition through the clonotypic B-cell receptors (BCRs). However, it is still unclear whether antigen involvement is restricted to the malignant transformation phase or whether the putative antigen(s) may continuously trigger the CLL clone and affect not only the progenitor cell but also the leukemic cells themselves. To address this issue, we conducted a large-scale subcloning study of rearranged immunoglobulin heavy variable (IGHV) genes of diverse mutational status from 71 CLL cases (total, 1496 subcloned sequences), belonging to both the common IgM/IgD variant and the rare IgG-positive variant. Although most cases showed no or low levels of intraclonal diversification (ID), we report intense ID in the IGHV genes of selected cases, especially a subgroup of 13 IgG-switched cases expressing stereotyped, mutated IGHV4-34 rearrangements (subset 4). We demonstrate that the ID evident in subset 4 cases cannot be attributed to IGHV4-34 usage, IGHV gene-mutated status, class-switch recombination, or BCR stereotypy in general; rather, it represents a unique phenomenon strongly correlated with the distinctive BCR of subset 4. In such cases, the observed ID patterns may imply a stereotyped response to an active, ongoing interaction with antigen(s).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Clone Cells
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin Heavy Chain / genetics*
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin Heavy Chain / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / genetics
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / immunology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Antigens