Single-cell genetic analysis reveals the composition of initiating clones and phylogenetic patterns of branching and parallel evolution in myeloma

Leukemia. 2014 Aug;28(8):1705-15. doi: 10.1038/leu.2014.13. Epub 2014 Jan 13.


Although intratumor heterogeneity has been inferred in multiple myeloma (MM), little is known about its subclonal phylogeny. To describe such phylogenetic trees in a series of patients with MM, we perform whole-exome sequencing and single-cell genetic analysis. Our results demonstrate that at presentation myeloma is composed of two to six different major clones, which are related by linear and branching phylogenies. Remarkably, the earliest myeloma-initiating clones, some of which only had the initiating t(11;14), were still present at low frequencies at the time of diagnosis. For the first time in myeloma, we demonstrate parallel evolution whereby two independent clones activate the RAS/MAPK pathway through RAS mutations and give rise subsequently to distinct subclonal lineages. We also report the co-occurrence of RAS and interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) p.K123R mutations in 4% of myeloma patients. Lastly, we describe the fluctuations of myeloma subclonal architecture in a patient analyzed at presentation and relapse and in NOD/SCID-IL2Rγ(null) xenografts, revealing clonal extinction and the emergence of new clones that acquire additional mutations. This study confirms that myeloma subclones exhibit different survival properties during treatment or mouse engraftment. We conclude that clonal diversity combined with varying selective pressures is the essential foundation for tumor progression and treatment resistance in myeloma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 11
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 14
  • Clonal Evolution*
  • Female
  • Genes, ras
  • Humans
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Myeloma / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Translocation, Genetic


  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • interferon regulatory factor-4