Immune Gene Rearrangements: Unique Signatures for Tracing Physiological Lymphocytes and Leukemic Cells

Genes (Basel). 2021 Jun 27;12(7):979. doi: 10.3390/genes12070979.


The tremendous diversity of the human immune repertoire, fundamental for the defense against highly heterogeneous pathogens, is based on the ingenious mechanism of immune gene rearrangements. Rearranged immune genes encoding the immunoglobulins and T-cell receptors and thus determining each lymphocyte's antigen specificity are very valuable molecular markers for tracing malignant or physiological lymphocytes. One of their most significant applications is tracking residual leukemic cells in patients with lymphoid malignancies. This so called 'minimal residual disease' (MRD) has been shown to be the most important prognostic factor across various leukemia subtypes and has therefore been given enormous attention. Despite the current rapid development of the molecular methods, the classical real-time PCR based approach is still being regarded as the standard method for molecular MRD detection due to the cumbersome standardization of the novel approaches currently in progress within the EuroMRD and EuroClonality NGS Consortia. Each of the molecular methods, however, poses certain benefits and it is therefore expectable that none of the methods for MRD detection will clearly prevail over the others in the near future.

Keywords: IG/TR rearrangements; digital droplet PCR; minimal residual disease; next generation sequencing; real-time quantitative PCR.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Rearrangement, T-Lymphocyte / genetics*
  • Gene Rearrangement, T-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Immunoglobulins / genetics*
  • Immunoglobulins / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / immunology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell