Detailed molecular cytogenetic characterisation of the myeloid cell line U937 reveals the fate of homologous chromosomes and shows that centromere capture is a feature of genome instability

Mol Cytogenet. 2020 Dec 14;13(1):50. doi: 10.1186/s13039-020-00517-y.


Background: The U937 cell line is widely employed as a research tool. It has a complex karyotype. A PICALM-MLLT10 fusion gene formed by the recurrent t(10;11) translocation is present, and the myeloid common deleted region at 20q12 has been lost from its near-triploid karyotype. We carried out a detailed investigation of U937 genome reorganisation including the chromosome 20 rearrangements and other complex rearrangements.

Results: SNP array, G-banding and Multicolour FISH identified chromosome segments resulting from unbalanced and balanced rearrangements. The organisation of the abnormal chromosomes containing these segments was then reconstructed with the strategic use of targeted metaphase FISH. This provided more accurate karyotype information for the evolving karyotype. Rearrangements involving the homologues of a chromosome pair could be differentiated in most instances. Centromere capture was demonstrated in an abnormal chromosome containing parts of chromosomes 16 and 20 which were stabilised by joining to a short section of chromosome containing an 11 centromere. This adds to the growing number of examples of centromere capture, which to date have a high incidence in complex karyotypes where the centromeres of the rearranged chromosomes are identified. There were two normal copies of one chromosome 20 homologue, and complex rearrangement of the other homologue including loss of the 20q12 common deleted region. This confirmed the previously reported loss of heterozygosity of this region in U937, and defined the rearrangements giving rise to this loss.

Conclusions: Centromere capture, stabilising chromosomes pieced together from multiple segments, may be a common feature of complex karyotypes. However, it has only recently been recognised, as this requires deliberate identification of the centromeres of abnormal chromosomes. The approach presented here is invaluable for studying complex reorganised genomes such as those produced by chromothripsis, and provides a more complete picture than can be obtained by microarray, karyotyping or FISH studies alone. One major advantage of SNP arrays for this process is that the two homologues can usually be distinguished when there is more than one rearrangement of a chromosome pair. Tracking the fate of each homologue and of highly repetitive DNA regions such as centromeres helps build a picture of genome evolution. Centromere- and telomere-containing elements are important to deducing chromosome structure. This study confirms and highlights ongoing evolution in cultured cell lines.

Keywords: Acute myeloid leukemia; Cell lines; Centromere capture; Dicentric chromosomes; Genome evolution; Molecular karyotype; U937.