Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Lynne V. Abruzzo, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle C. Barton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gilbert J. Cote, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Emil J Freireich, M.D., D. Sci. (Hon)

Committee Member

Craig D. Logsdon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David J. McConkey, Ph.D.


In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), one of the best predictors of outcome is the somatic mutation status of the immunoglobulin heavy chain variable region (IGHV) genes. Patients whose CLL cells have unmutated IGHV genes have a median survival of 8 years; those with mutated IGHV genes have a median survival of 25 years. To identify new prognostic biomarkers and molecular targets for therapy in untreated CLL patients, we reanalyzed the raw data from four published gene expression profiling microarray studies. Of 88 candidate biomarkers associated with IGHV somatic mutation status, we identified LDOC1 (Leucine Zipper, Down-regulated in Cancer 1), as one of the most significantly differentially expressed genes that distinguished mutated from unmutated CLL cases. LDOC1 is a putative transcription factor of unknown function in B-cell development and CLL pathophysiology. Using a highly sensitive quantitative RT-PCR (QRT-PCR) assay, we confirmed that LDOC1 mRNA was dramatically down-regulated in mutated compared to unmutated CLL cases. Expression of LDOC1 mRNA was also vii strongly associated with other markers of poor prognosis, including ZAP70 protein and cytogenetic abnormalities of poor prognosis (deletions of chromosomes 6q21, 11q23, and 17p13.1, and trisomy 12). CLL cases positive for LDOC1 mRNA had significantly shorter overall survival than negative cases. Moreover, in a multivariate model, LDOC1 mRNA expression predicted overall survival better than IGHV mutation status or ZAP70 protein, among the best markers of prognosis in CLL. We also discovered LDOC1S, a new LDOC1 splice variant. Using isoform-specific QRT-PCR assays that we developed, we found that both isoforms were expressed in normal B cells (naïve > memory), unmutated CLL cells, and in B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas with unmutated IGHV genes. To investigate pathways in which LDOC1 is involved, we knocked down LDOC1 in HeLa cells and performed global gene expression profiling. GFI1 (Growth Factor-Independent 1) emerged as a significantly up-regulated gene in both HeLa cells and CLL cells that expressed high levels of LDOC1. GFI1 oncoprotein is implicated in hematopoietic stem cell maintenance, lymphocyte development, and lymphomagenesis. Our findings indicate that LDOC1 mRNA is an excellent biomarker of overall survival in CLL, and may contribute to B-cell differentiation and malignant transformation.


LDOC1, LDOC1S, CLL, IGHV mutation, gene expression, biomarker, overall survival, QRT-PCR, lymphoma, gene expression profiling microarrays



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