We have analyzed the configuration of the T cell receptor (TCR) alpha gene using newly developed genomic joining region (J alpha) probes, which cover approximately 80 kb of the J alpha region upstream from the constant region in 19 patients with T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) and in three CD3- leukemic T cell lines (HSB2, CEM, and MOLT4). In parallel, transcription of the TCR-alpha, beta, and gamma genes was examined in 11 of these patients and in the T cell lines. All T-ALL and the three T cell lines exhibited both TCR-gamma and beta gene rearrangements. 8 of 10 T-ALL and all T cell lines expressed TCR-gamma transcripts. All samples tested expressed both TCR-beta and CD3-gamma transcripts. TCR alpha transcripts were only observed in CD3+ T-ALL but not in CD3- T-ALL or the CD3- cell lines. Among the CD3+ T-ALL, eight had TCR-alpha gene rearrangements. In addition, TCR-alpha gene rearrangements were detected in one CD3- T-ALL and all three T cell lines. These leukemic cells may represent a transient stage between rearrangement and expression and provide an opportunity for analyzing the mechanism regulating the expression of the TCR-alpha gene.
J Hara, S H Benedict, E Champagne, T W Mak, M Minden, E W Gelfand