Gene expression profiling of minimal residual disease in acute myeloid leukaemia by novel multiplex-PCR-based method.
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In acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), alterations in apoptotic pathways are crucial for treatment outcome, resulting either in refractoriness or in minimal residual disease (MRD). The apoptosis characteristics of MRD cells may differ from those at diagnosis and thereby determine the adequacy of further treatment. Such characteristics are largely unknown, since studies hereto are hampered by minimal cell availability. This study explores the applicability of the recently described RT-Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification (RT-MLPA) for gene expression analysis of small amounts of RNA obtained from MRD cells. Reproducibility and dilution experiments showed that the relative expression of 37 apoptosis-related genes starting with only 1000 cells could be measured with 12% variation; for 100 cells, 31/37 genes could still be quantified, though expression variation increased. In practice 100-1000 leukemic cells can be obtained from bone marrow samples with clinically relevant MRD percentages of 0.01-0.1. Procedures often necessary to obtain AML blasts, that is, FACS-sorting, freeze-thawing or combinations are possible, provided that selected viable nonapoptotic cells are used. Concluding, RT-MLPA allows accurate gene expression profiling of MRD cells. This method will help to gain insight into the processes of MRD emergence and persistence in AML, which may ultimately guide new therapeutic strategies in AML.