Background: Structural chromosomal rearrangements that lead to expressed fusion genes are a hallmark of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). In this study, we performed transcriptome sequencing of 134 primary ALL patient samples to comprehensively detect fusion transcripts.
Methods: We combined fusion gene detection with genome-wide DNA methylation analysis, gene expression profiling, and targeted sequencing to determine molecular signatures of emerging ALL subtypes.
Results: We identified 64 unique fusion events distributed among 80 individual patients, of which over 50% have not previously been reported in ALL. Although the majority of the fusion genes were found only in a single patient, we identified several recurrent fusion gene families defined by promiscuous fusion gene partners, such as ETV6, RUNX1, PAX5, and ZNF384, or recurrent fusion genes, such as DUX4-IGH. Our data show that patients harboring these fusion genes displayed characteristic genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression signatures in addition to distinct patterns in single nucleotide variants and recurrent copy number alterations.
Conclusion: Our study delineates the fusion gene landscape in pediatric ALL, including both known and novel fusion genes, and highlights fusion gene families with shared molecular etiologies, which may provide additional information for prognosis and therapeutic options in the future.
Keywords: BCP-ALL; Fusion genes; Pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia; RNA sequencing; T-ALL; Translocation.