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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2019, Article ID 7239206, 36 pages
Review Article

Not Only Mutations Matter: Molecular Picture of Acute Myeloid Leukemia Emerging from Transcriptome Studies

Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences, Poznan, Poland

Correspondence should be addressed to Luiza Handschuh; lp.nanzop.hcbi@nahaziul

Received 26 April 2019; Accepted 12 June 2019; Published 30 July 2019

Guest Editor: Annalisa Lonetti

Copyright © 2019 Luiza Handschuh. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The last two decades of genome-scale research revealed a complex molecular picture of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). On the one hand, a number of mutations were discovered and associated with AML diagnosis and prognosis; some of them were introduced into diagnostic tests. On the other hand, transcriptome studies, which preceded AML exome and genome sequencing, remained poorly translated into clinics. Nevertheless, gene expression studies significantly contributed to the elucidation of AML pathogenesis and indicated potential therapeutic directions. The power of transcriptomic approach lies in its comprehensiveness; we can observe how genome manifests its function in a particular type of cells and follow many genes in one test. Moreover, gene expression measurement can be combined with mutation detection, as high-impact mutations are often present in transcripts. This review sums up 20 years of transcriptome research devoted to AML. Gene expression profiling (GEP) revealed signatures distinctive for selected AML subtypes and uncovered the additional within-subtype heterogeneity. The results were particularly valuable in the case of AML with normal karyotype which concerns up to 50% of AML cases. With the use of GEP, new classes of the disease were identified and prognostic predictors were proposed. A plenty of genes were detected as overexpressed in AML when compared to healthy control, including KIT, BAALC, ERG, MN1, CDX2, WT1, PRAME, and HOX genes. High expression of these genes constitutes usually an unfavorable prognostic factor. Upregulation of FLT3 and NPM1 genes, independent on their mutation status, was also reported in AML and correlated with poor outcome. However, transcriptome is not limited to the protein-coding genes; other types of RNA molecules exist in a cell and regulate genome function. It was shown that microRNA (miRNA) profiles differentiated AML groups and predicted outcome not worse than protein-coding gene profiles. For example, upregulation of miR-10a, miR-10b, and miR-196b and downregulation of miR-192 were found as typical of AML with NPM1 mutation whereas overexpression of miR-155 was associated with FLT3-internal tandem duplication (FLT3-ITD). Development of high-throughput technologies and microarray replacement by next generation sequencing (RNA-seq) enabled uncovering a real variety of leukemic cell transcriptomes, reflected by gene fusions, chimeric RNAs, alternatively spliced transcripts, miRNAs, piRNAs, long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), and their special type, circular RNAs. Many of them can be considered as AML biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets. The relations between particular RNA puzzles and other components of leukemic cells and their microenvironment, such as exosomes, are now under investigation. Hopefully, the results of this research will shed the light on these aspects of AML pathogenesis which are still not completely understood.