Large-scale human next generation sequencing studies have progressively defined the complex genetic landscape of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and Richter’s syndrome (RS), yet the difficulties in rapid manipulation of primary CLL cells and the limited availability of cell lines have challenged studies aimed at interrogating the function of the so-called disease “drivers”, defined in human studies through statistical inference. Mouse models represent powerful tools to study mechanisms of normal and malignant B cell biology. Conditional knock-in/knock-out systems have allowed B-cell restricted modeling of CLL genetic lesions, with MDR mice being the first example of a genetically-faithful CLL model, recapitulating the most common genomic aberration of human disease, del(13q). Since then, a series of models generated by our group and others have allowed to uncover key functional changes underlying disease onset and transformation, including in the context of combined mutation in the splicing factor Sf3b1 and the DNA damage response gene Atm, sole mutation in the B cell developmental factor Ikzf3, the nuclear export receptor Xpo1, the ribosomal protein Rps15, and the DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3a (the latter not a CLL lesion per se, but recapitulating disordered methylation patterns typical of CLL). The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology has further enabled B-cell restricted introduction of multiple combinatorial loss-of-function lesions, allowing the generation of faithful models not only of CLL but, importantly, of transformation into RS. In this presentation, I will describe the application of mouse models to studies of CLL and RS pathogenesis and treatment, with a focus on key aspects uncovered through the characterization of genetically- inspired mouse lines of recurrent disease drivers. I will provide a perspective on how these novel models combined with new technology allowed the dissection of mechanisms of disease evolution and response to therapy with greater depth than previously possible, representing valuable platforms for functional genomic analyses.

Citation Format: Elisa ten Hacken. Understanding CLL and Richter’s syndrome biology through mouse models of human genetics [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Third AACR International Meeting: Advances in Malignant Lymphoma: Maximizing the Basic-Translational Interface for Clinical Application; 2022 Jun 23-26; Boston, MA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Blood Cancer Discov 2022;3(5_Suppl):Abstract nr IA26.