A case of T lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) showing t(1;7)(p34;q34) as the sole karyotypic abnormality was investigated at the molecular level. Screening of a phage library of tumor DNA with a probe for the beta T cell receptor gene (TCRB), which maps to chromosomal band 7q34, resulted in the isolation of a clone containing DNA spanning the translocation breakpoint of the der(1) chromosome. This clone contained chromosome 1 DNA juxtaposed upstream of a D beta-J beta joint. Cloning of the corresponding germline region of chromosome 1 resulted in the isolation of a phage containing the breakpoint from the reciprocal, der(7), product, which showed chromosome 1 DNA joined downstream to a V beta segment. Comparison of germline and translocation clones demonstrated that breakage of chromosome 1 had occurred at the border of a tandem repeat of Alu sequences. To search for transcripts from DNA near the breakpoint, a chromosomal walk was initiated along chromosome 1. A probe consisting of chromosome 1 DNA from 24-30 kb upstream of the breakpoint hybridized to a transcript derived from the gene encoding the lymphocyte-specific tyrosine kinase p56lck, previously mapped to chromosomal band 1p34. The nonrandom nature of the breakpoints in this case was confirmed by the analysis of a second independent case of T-ALL containing a t(1;7) translocation, which was also found to show breakage within the LCK locus. The chromosomal breakpoint in the first case was localized 2 kb upstream of the lck upstream promoter and first nontranslated exon, while the breakpoint of the second case lay between the two alternative lck promoters, upstream of the second exon. Relative to normal thymus and activated T cells, levels of lck mRNA were greatly elevated in the first case and moderately elevated in the second. The existence of these translocations raises the possibility that alterations in the promoter region of the LCK locus may play a role in human cancer.

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