The outcome of treatment-refractory and/or relapsed pediatric T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is extremely poor, and the genetic basis for this is not well understood. Here we report comprehensive profiling of 121 cases of pediatric T-ALL using transcriptome and/or targeted capture sequencing, through which we identified new recurrent gene fusions involving SPI1 (STMN1-SPI1 and TCF7-SPI1). Cases positive for fusions involving SPI1 (encoding PU.1), accounting for 3.9% (7/181) of the examined pediatric T-ALL cases, showed a double-negative (DN; CD4 - CD8 -) or CD8 + single-positive (SP) phenotype and had uniformly poor overall survival. These cases represent a subset of pediatric T-ALL distinguishable from the known T-ALL subsets in terms of expression of genes involved in T cell precommitment, establishment of T cell identity, and post-β-selection maturation and with respect to mutational profile. PU.1 fusion proteins retained transcriptional activity and, when constitutively expressed in mouse stem/progenitor cells, induced cell proliferation and resulted in a maturation block. Our findings highlight a unique role of SPI1 fusions in high-risk pediatric T-ALL.
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