Immunoglobulin gene rearrangement and cell surface antigen expression in acute lymphocytic leukemias of T cell and B cell precursor origins

J Clin Invest. 1983 Feb;71(2):301-13. doi: 10.1172/jci110770.


We have explored the relationship among immunoglobulin gene rearrangement, cytoplasmic immunoglobulin production, and cell surface antigen expression within 37 cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia. All 12 cases of the T cell type had germ-line kappa and lambda genes and 11 of 12 had germ-line heavy chain genes. In contrast, all 25 cases of the "non-T, non-B" classification, which lacked both definitive T cell markers and surface immunoglobulin, had rearranged immunoglobulin genes, indicating that they represent precursor cells already committed to the B cell lineage at the gene level. 14 had rearranged heavy chain genes, yet retained germ-line light chain genes, whereas 11 cases had both heavy and light chain gene reorganizations. All patterns of immunoglobulin gene rearrangement predicted by a model that proceeds from heavy chain gene recombination to light chain genes were observed. Despite the uniform presence of rearranged immunoglobulin genes, only five cases produced cytoplasmic mu-chain, one exceptional case produced gamma-chain, and another produced only lambda-chain. The cases of B cell precursor type that do not produce immunoglobulin may represent cells that frequently possess ineffectively rearranged immunoglobulin genes. Included in this group may be a set of cells trapped within the B cell precursor series because their ineffective rearrangements have eliminated certain gene subsegments necessary for the assemblage of an effective heavy chain gene. All seven cases of the non-T, non-B subgroup that bore HLA-DR but lacked CALLA (the common acute lymphocytic leukemia-associated antigen) represented the earliest recognizable stage of B cell precursors with rearranged heavy chain genes but germ-line light chain genes. Correlations here suggest that cells entering B cell development express HLA-DR and rearrange heavy chain genes before the expression of a B cell-associated antigen recognized by the antibody BA-1, the antigen CALLA, and any subsequent light chain gene rearrangements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Genes
  • Genetic Code
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / genetics*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell