Rudner, L.A., Brown, K.H., Dobrinski, K.P., Bradley, D.F., Garcia, M.I., Smith, A.C., Downie, J.M., Meeker, N.D., Look, A.T., Downing, J.R., Gutierrez, A., Mullighan, C.G., Schiffman, J.D., Lee, C., Trede, N.S., and Frazer, J.K. (2011) Shared acquired genomic changes in zebrafish and human T-ALL. Oncogene. 30(41):4289-96.
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is a challenging clinical entity with high rates of induction failure and relapse. To discover the genetic changes occurring in T-ALL, and those contributing to relapse, we studied zebrafish (Danio rerio) T-ALL samples using array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH). We performed aCGH on 17 T-ALLs from four zebrafish T-ALL models, and evaluated similarities between fish and humans by comparing all D. rerio genes with copy number aberrations (CNAs) with a cohort of 75 published human T-ALLs analyzed by aCGH. Within all D. rerio CNAs, we identified 893 genes with human homologues and found significant overlap (67%) with the human CNA dataset. In addition, when we restricted our analysis to primary T-ALLs (14 zebrafish and 61 human samples), 10 genes were recurrently altered in >3 zebrafish cancers and ö4 human cases, suggesting a conserved role for these loci in T-ALL transformation across species. We also conducted iterative allo-transplantation with three zebrafish malignancies. This technique selects for aggressive disease, resulting in shorter survival times in successive transplant rounds and modeling refractory and relapsed human T-ALL. Fifty-five percent of original CNAs were preserved after serial transplantation, demonstrating clonality between each primary and passaged leukemia. Cancers acquired an average of 34 new CNAs during passaging. Genes in these loci may underlie the enhanced malignant behavior of these neoplasias. We also compared genes from CNAs of passaged zebrafish malignancies with aCGH results from 50 human T-ALL patients who failed induction, relapsed or would eventually relapse. Again, many genes (88/164) were shared by both datasets. Further, nine recurrently altered genes in passaged D. rerio T-ALL were also found in multiple human T-ALL cases. These results suggest that zebrafish and human T-ALLs are similar at the genomic level, and are governed by factors that have persisted throughout evolution.