Nucleophosmin (NPM1) mutations in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) affect exon 12, but also sporadically affect exons 9 and 11, causing changes at the protein C-terminal end (tryptophan loss, nuclear export signal [NES] motif creation) that lead to aberrant cytoplasmic NPM1 (NPM1c+), detectable by immunohistochemistry. Combining immunohistochemistry and molecular analyses in 929 patients with AML, we found non-exon 12 NPM1 mutations in 5 (1.3%) of 387 NPM1c+ cases. Besides mutations in exons 9 (n = 1) and 11 (n = 1), novel exon 5 mutations were discovered (n = 3). Another exon 5 mutation was identified in an additional 141 patients with AML selected for wild-type NPM1 exon 12. Three NPM1 rearrangements (NPM1/RPP30, NPM1/SETBP1, NPM1/CCDC28A) were detected and characterized among 13 979 AML samples screened by cytogenetic/fluorescence in situ hybridization and RNA sequencing. Functional studies demonstrated that in AML cases, new NPM1 proteins harbored an efficient extra NES, either newly created or already present in the fusion partner, ensuring its cytoplasmic accumulation. Our findings support NPM1 cytoplasmic relocation as critical for leukemogenesis and reinforce the role of immunohistochemistry in predicting AML-associated NPM1 genetic lesions. This study highlights the need to develop new assays for molecular diagnosis and monitoring of NPM1-mutated AML.
© 2021 by The American Society of Hematology.