Purpose: B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a clinically heterogeneous disease whose outcome can be foreseen by investigating the mutational status of immunoglobulin heavy chain variable (IGHV) genes. Moreover, a different prognosis was reported for CLL expressing specific IGHV genes in the context or not of stereotyped B-cell receptors. Here we investigated novel associations between usage of specific IGHV genes and clinical features in CLL.
Experimental design: Among 1,426 CLL-specific IG-rearrangements, stereotyped B-cell receptor clusters never utilized the IGHV3-23 gene. Given this notion, this study was aimed at characterizing the IGHV3-23 gene in CLL, and identifying the properties of IGHV3-23-expressing CLL.
Results: IGHV3-23 was the second most frequently used (134 of 1,426) and usually mutated (M; 109 of 134) IGHV gene in our CLL series. In the vast majority of M IGHV3-23 sequences, the configuration of the 13 amino acids involved in superantigen recognition was consistent with superantigen binding. Clinically, M IGHV3-23 CLL had shorter time-to-treatment than other M non-IGHV3-23 CLL, and multivariate analyses selected IGHV3-23 gene usage, Rai staging, and chromosomal abnormalities as independent prognosticators for M CLL. Compared with M non-IGHV3-23 CLL, the gene expression profile of M IGHV3-23 CLL was deprived in genes, including the growth/tumor suppressor genes PDCD4, TIA1, and RASSF5, whose downregulation is under control of miR-15a and miR-16-1. Accordingly, relatively higher levels of miR-15a and miR-16-1 were found in M IGHV3-23 compared with M non-IGHV3-23 CLL.
Conclusions: Altogether, expression of the IGHV3-23 gene characterizes a CLL subset with distinct clinical and biological features.