Genomic landscape of Down syndrome-associated acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Blood. 2023 Jul 13;142(2):172-184. doi: 10.1182/blood.2023019765.


Trisomy 21, the genetic cause of Down syndrome (DS), is the most common congenital chromosomal anomaly. It is associated with a 20-fold increased risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) during childhood and results in distinctive leukemia biology. To comprehensively define the genomic landscape of DS-ALL, we performed whole-genome sequencing and whole-transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) on 295 cases. Our integrated genomic analyses identified 15 molecular subtypes of DS-ALL, with marked enrichment of CRLF2-r, IGH::IGF2BP1, and C/EBP altered (C/EBPalt) subtypes compared with 2257 non-DS-ALL cases. We observed abnormal activation of the CEBPD, CEBPA, and CEBPE genes in 10.5% of DS-ALL cases via a variety of genomic mechanisms, including chromosomal rearrangements and noncoding mutations leading to enhancer hijacking. A total of 42.3% of C/EBP-activated DS-ALL also have concomitant FLT3 point mutations or insertions/deletions, compared with 4.1% in other subtypes. CEBPD overexpression enhanced the differentiation of mouse hematopoietic progenitor cells into pro-B cells in vitro, particularly in a DS genetic background. Notably, recombination-activating gene-mediated somatic genomic abnormalities were common in DS-ALL, accounting for a median of 27.5% of structural alterations, compared with 7.7% in non-DS-ALL. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering analyses of CRLF2-rearranged DS-ALL identified substantial heterogeneity within this group, with the BCR::ABL1-like subset linked to an inferior event-free survival, even after adjusting for known clinical risk factors. These results provide important insights into the biology of DS-ALL and point to opportunities for targeted therapy and treatment individualization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Down Syndrome* / complications
  • Down Syndrome* / genetics
  • Genomics
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma* / complications
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma* / genetics
  • Risk Factors