Numerical chromosome aberrations were detected in hematological cancers by nonradioactive in situ hybridization (ISH) procedures, using centromere specific probes for chromosomes 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, X, and Y. All 15 cases could be evaluated by ISH for these 11 probes. Our experiments show that in seven of these randomly selected leukemia bone marrow cell suspensions numerical aberrations for one or two chromosomes could be detected by this method. The results of ISH on interphase nuclei and in some cases on metaphase preparations were compared with karyotyping data. Seven cases of chromosomal aberrations observed with ISH (three for monosomy and four for trisomy) were confirmed by this classical cytogenetic technique, whereas in five instances an aberration was found only with ISH (twice for monosomy, twice for trisomy, and one disomy for the Y-probe). One case of a trisomy for chromosome 1 observed by ISH on interphase nuclei could be explained by a marker chromosome, a finding that was further substantiated by ISH on metaphase spreads. In this case double-target ISH on interphase cells with the probes for chromosomes 1 and 16 strongly suggested a translocation between these chromosomes. Also, in one case a marker chromosome could be characterized as a translocation between chromosomes 7 and 17. In this latter case the cytogenetic examinations revealed only monosomy for chromosomes 7 and 17 in addition to noncharacterized marker chromosomes.

Our results indicate that the nonradioactive ISH procedure in combination with chromosome specific repetitive centromeric probes is a powerful tool for studying both numerical and structural chromosomal aberrations in interphase nuclei of leukemias. It may therefore become a valuable and routine diagnostic tool in addition to the existing karyotyping procedures.

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This work was supported by Netherlands Cancer Foundation Grant NUKC 88-6.

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