The gene mutated in ataxia telangiectasia, ATM, on human chromosome 11q22–q23 is implicated in cell cycle control and DNA repair. Ataxia telangiectasia patients as well as ATM-deficient mice are immune deficient and develop lymphoproliferative disease. Abnormalities in 11q22.3–q23.1 have also been described in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL). We analyzed B-CLL samples for loss of heterozygosity (LOH) using microsatellite markers located at the ATM (D11S2179), mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL; D11S1356), and BCL1 (D11S987) loci, and of which are located around 11q23. Five (14%) of 36 informative cases showed LOH at the ATM gene, and two of these five cases had LOH at the MLL gene. No LOH was detected at the BCL1 locus, and none of the cases showed LOH at the MLL gene without LOH at the ATM gene. Four of these five cases with LOH at the ATM gene were studied for ATM protein expression by Western blot analysis. All four cases lacked ATM protein. An additional 111 cases of B-CLL were studied for expression of ATM protein by Western blot analysis and RIA. Thirty-eight (34%) of these cases showed ATM levels <50% of that seen in normal lymphoid cells. No morphological or immunophenotypic difference was observed between ATM-deficient B-CLL cases and cases with normal ATM expression. However, patients with ATM deficiency had significantly shorter survival times (35.66 versus 97.3 months; P = 0.003) and more aggressive disease, suggesting that ATM is involved in the leukemogenesis of B-CLL. These data also suggest that the ATM gene may play a role in the reported 11q23 abnormality in B-CLL, which also characterizes an aggressive disease.

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