A Novel, Non-canonical Splice Variant of the Ikaros Gene Is Aberrantly Expressed in B-cell Lymphoproliferative Disorders
Ikaros, a zinc finger-containing DNA-binding protein, is required for normal lymphocyte development, and germline mutant mice that express only non-DNA binding dominant-negative "leukemogenic" Ikaros isoforms lacking critical N-terminal zinc fingers develop an aggressive form of lymphoblastic leukemia 3-6 months after birth. Therefore, we sought to determine whether molecular abnormalities involving the Ikaros gene could contribute to the development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in infants. Primary leukemic cells were freshly obtained from 12 infants (<1 year of age) with newly diagnosed ALL. In leukemic cells from each of the 12 infants with ALL, we found high level expression of dominant-negative isoforms of Ikaros with abnormal subcellular compartmentalization patterns. PCR cloning and nucleotide sequencing were used to identify the specific Ikaros isoforms and detect Ikaros gene mutations in these cells. Leukemic cells from seven of seven infants with ALL, including five of five MLL-AF4(+) infants, expressed dominant-negative Ikaros isoforms Ik-4, Ik-7, and Ik-8 that lack critical N-terminal zinc fingers. In six of seven patients, we detected a specific mutation leading to an in-frame deletion of 10 amino acids (Delta KSSMPQKFLG) upstream of the transcription activation domain adjacent to the C-terminal zinc fingers of Ik-2, Ik-4, Ik-7, and Ik-8. In contrast, only wild-type Ik-1 and Ik-2 isoforms with normal nuclear localization were found in normal infant bone marrow cells and infant thymocytes. These results implicate the expression of dominant-negative Ikaros isoforms and the disruption of normal Ikaros function in the leukemogenesis of ALL in infants.