The BCL11B tumor suppressor is mutated across the major molecular subtypes of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Blood. 2011 Oct 13;118(15):4169-73. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-11-318873. Epub 2011 Aug 30.


The BCL11B transcription factor is required for normal T-cell development, and has recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) induced by TLX overexpression or Atm deficiency. To comprehensively assess the contribution of BCL11B inactivation to human T-ALL, we performed DNA copy number and sequencing analyses of T-ALL diagnostic specimens, revealing monoallelic BCL11B deletions or missense mutations in 9% (n = 10 of 117) of cases. Structural homology modeling revealed that several of the BCL11B mutations disrupted the structure of zinc finger domains required for this transcription factor to bind DNA. BCL11B haploinsufficiency occurred across each of the major molecular subtypes of T-ALL, including early T-cell precursor, HOXA-positive, LEF1-inactivated, and TAL1-positive subtypes, which have differentiation arrest at diverse stages of thymocyte development. Our findings provide compelling evidence that BCL11B is a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor that collaborates with all major T-ALL oncogenic lesions in human thymocyte transformation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Haploinsufficiency*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Zinc Fingers / genetics


  • BCL11B protein, human
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins