Southern blot analyses revealed that cells from nearly 30% of childhood B cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemias (ALLs) contained more than two rearranged, nongermline bands for Ig heavy chain genes. DNA corresponding to these bands was molecularly cloned from two cases which showed three and seven rearranged bands, respectively. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the cloned DNA demonstrated that each band represented different VDJ or DJ rearrangements. While the same DJ joints were shared by several rearrangements, different DJ joints were found in the majority of rearrangements, precluding V region substitution as an explanation for the multiplicity of heavy chain rearrangements in these leukemias. Most of the V region segments involved in these rearrangements were restricted to VH region families that have been shown previously to be preferentially rearranged in human fetal B lineage cells. Sequence analysis of multiple copies of the same VDJ rearrangements from different cells revealed no somatic mutation, a mechanism responsible for detection of extra rearranged Ig DNA bands in certain other B lineage tumors. The data suggest that in some cases of ALL Ig heavy chain genes begin and continue to rearrange de novo within the neoplastic B cell precursor populations derived from an original malignant cell transformed at a stem cell stage of differentiation.

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