Transformation to aggressive disease histologies generates formidable clinical challenges across cancers, but biological insights remain few. We modeled the genetic heterogeneity of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) through multiplexed in vivo CRISPR-Cas9 B-cell editing of recurrent CLL loss-of-function drivers in mice and recapitulated the process of transformation from indolent CLL into large cell lymphoma [i.e., Richter syndrome (RS)]. Evolutionary trajectories of 64 mice carrying diverse combinatorial gene assortments revealed coselection of mutations in Trp53, Mga, and Chd2 and the dual impact of clonal Mga/Chd2 mutations on E2F/MYC and interferon signaling dysregulation. Comparative human and murine RS analyses demonstrated tonic PI3K signaling as a key feature of transformed disease, with constitutive activation of the AKT and S6 kinases, downmodulation of the PTEN phosphatase, and convergent activation of MYC/PI3K transcriptional programs underlying enhanced sensitivity to MYC/mTOR/PI3K inhibition. This robust experimental system presents a unique framework to study lymphoid biology and therapy.


Mouse models reflective of the genetic complexity and heterogeneity of human tumors remain few, including those able to recapitulate transformation to aggressive disease histologies. Herein, we model CLL transformation into RS through multiplexed in vivo gene editing, providing key insight into the pathophysiology and therapeutic vulnerabilities of transformed disease.

This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 101

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