Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a rare myeloproliferative disorder caused by the reciprocal translocation t(9;22)(q34;q11) in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). This chromosomal translocation results in the formation of an extra-short chromosome 22, called a Philadelphia chromosome (Ph), containing the BCR-ABL1 fusion gene responsible for the expression of a constitutively active tyrosine kinase that causes uncontrolled growth and replication of leukemic cells. Mechanisms behind the formation of this chromosomal rearrangement are not well known, even if, as observed in tumors, repetitive DNA may be involved as core elements in chromosomal rearrangements. We have participated in the explorative investigations of the PhilosoPhi34 study to evaluate residual Ph+ cells in patients with negative FISH analysis on CD34+/lin- cells with gDNA qPCR. Using targeted next-generation deep sequencing strategies, we analyzed the genomic region around the t(9;22) translocations of 82 CML patients and one CML cell line and assessed the relevance of interspersed repeat elements at breakpoints (BP). We found a statistically higher presence of LINE elements, in particular belonging to the subfamily L1M, in BP cluster regions of both chromosome 22 and 9 compared to the whole human genome. These data suggest that L1M elements could be potential drivers of t(9;22) translocation leading to the generation of the BCR-ABL1 chimeric gene and the expression of the active BCR-ABL1-controlled tyrosine kinase chimeric protein responsible for CML.
Keywords: BCR-ABL1; L1M; LINE; chronic myeloid leukemia; rearrangements.