Background: Children with type 1 neurofibromatosis (NF-1) are at increased risk for malignant myeloid disorders. Analysis of the NF-1 gene (NF1) suggests that the function of its product, neurofibromin, is reduced in affected persons and that NF1 belongs to the tumor-suppressor class of recessive cancer genes. This model is consistent with evidence that neurofibromin accelerates the intrinsic guanosine triphosphate-hydrolyzing activity of the Ras family of regulatory proteins. Loss of constitutional heterozygosity has not been reported in the benign tumors associated with NF-1, however, and has only been detected in a few malignant neural-crest tumors and in some tumor-derived cell lines.
Methods: We studied DNA extracted from the bone marrow of 11 children with NF-1 in whom malignant myeloid disorders developed and from parental leukocytes. We used a series of polymorphic markers within and near NF1 to determine whether leukemogenesis was associated with structural alterations of the gene.
Results: Bone marrow samples from five patients showed loss of heterozygosity. In each case, the NF1 allele was inherited from a parent with NF-1 and the normal allele was deleted.
Conclusions: These data provide evidence of NF1 may function as a tumor-suppressor allele in malignant myeloid diseases in children with NF-1 and that neurofibromin is a regulator of ras in early myelopoiesis.