t(5;17)(q35;q21) NPM1/RARA

2017-01-01   Adriana Zamecnikova , Adriana Zamecnikova 

1.Kuwait Cancer Control Center, Department of Hematology annaadria@yahoo.com


Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is characterized by distinct clinical and biological features and by the reciprocal translocation t(15;17)(q22;q21) in the majority of patients. The translocation generates the fusion of the promyelocytic leukemia (PML) gene to the gene for retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARA) and these patients are responsive to differentiation treatment with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA). Rare cases of patients with a morphological diagnosis of APL have variant chromosome translocations, which fuse RARA gene with partner genes other than PML, such as in the variant translocation t(5;17)(q35;q21) that fuses the N-terminus of nucleophosmin (NPM1) gene at 5q35 to the retinoic acid receptor alpha at 17q21.

Clinics and Pathology


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Phenotype stem cell origin

Acute promyelocytic leukemia (AML-M3 according to the FAB classification)


Exceptional; only 7 cases with balanced t(5;17)(q35;q12-21) translocation and the underlying NPM1/RARA fusion have been identified (5 males and 2 females, aged 2.5 to 52 years). There were 2 adult males, aged 29 and 52 years and 4 patients were pediatric cases, among them 2 were 12-year-old males and 2 were 2.5 and 9-year-old females (Table 1).


Disseminated intravascular coagulation was present at diagnosis in one case; remission obtained with chemotherapy and/or ATRA; first relapse at 7 and 5 months in 2 cases (Corey et al., 1994 ; Hummel et al., 1999). The 6-month-old boy described by Otsubo et al., presented with cutaneous mastocytosis and aleukemic leukemia cutis that regressed without any therapy within 6 months. Both adult patients also presented with myeloid sarcoma, therefore it is likely that it may occur frequently in NPM1/RARA associated APL (Nicci et., 2005; Kikuma et al.,2015).
Table 1. Reported cases with t(5;17)(q35;q12-21) and confirmed NPM1-RARA fusion.
 Sex/Age (years)KaryotypeClinics
1.F/2.546,XX,t(5;17)(q32;q12) 48,XX,t(5;17),+ 2marTherapy with ATRA while in partial remission, relapsed within 2 weeks of ATRA cessation.
2.M/1247,XY,t(5;17)(q35;q21),der(8)(p23), der(10)(q26),del(12)(q13q22),del(1)(q12q14),-16,-18,+21,+22,+mar Treated initially with chemotherapy, relapse occurred after 5 months. After therapy with ATRA remission was obtained, followed by bone marrow transplantation, but relapsed and remained refractory to further therapy.
3.F/946,XX,ins(3;5)(q26;q13q13),t(5;17)(q34;q21) Therapy with ATRA as a part of induction therapy; alive in remission at 29 months.
4.M/1246,XY,t(5;17)(q35;q21),del(12)(p13) Died of cerebral hemorrhage after 5 days of ATRA treatment.
5.M/29  46,XY,t(5;17)(q35;q21) Presented with granulocytic sarcoma; therapy with ATRA resulted in complete cytogenetic but not a molecular remission, relapsed at 22 months; treated with one course of arsenic trioxide.
6.M/446,XY,t(5;17)(q35;q12),i(21)(q10)Presented with cutaneous mastocytosis and leukemia cutis at the age of 6 months with spontaneous regression within 6 month; followed by leukemia development at 4 years; remission to ATRA.
7.M/5246,XY,t(5;17)(q35;q12)Preceded by myeloid sarcoma; induction therapy including ATRA resulted in complete hematological and molecular remission.

Abbreviations: M, male; F, female; ATRA; all-trans-retinoic acid.
1. Corey et al., 1994 and Redner et al., 1996. 2. Hummel et al., 1999; 3. Grimwade et al., 2000; 4. Xu et al., 2001; 5. Nicci et al., 2005; 6. Otsubo et al., 2012; Kikuma et al., 2015.


Hypergranular and hypogranular bilobed promyelocytes; absence of Auer rods; typical microspeckeled pattern with anti-RARa antibodies; terminal differentiation of blasts and promyelocytes in vitro with ATRA.


The 2.5 years-old child (Corey et al., 1994; Redner et al., 1996) was treated with ATRA while in partial remission and relapsed shortly after ATRA cessation. One of the 12-years old males (Hummel et al., 1999) received chemotherapy in induction and consolidation and relapsed after 5 months; remission was obtained with Ara-C and ATRA therapy followed by allogenic BM transplantation, but relapsed with therapy refractoriness. The second 12-years old male who presented with severe DIC died of cerebral hemorrhage after 5 days of ATRA treatment (Xu et al., 2001). The 9-year-old female was treated with ATRA as a part of induction therapy and was alive in first CR at 29 months (Grimwade et al 2000). The last pediatric patient presented with aleukemic leukemia cutis and t(5;17)(q35;q12) NPM1/RARA fusion at the age of 6-month-old (Kanegane et al., 2009; Otsubo et al., 2012). He showed no sign of leukemia without any therapy after 12 months, except for the presence of NPM1-RARA transcript in the bone marrow, but developed APL at the age of 4 years with complete remission to ATRA. Both adult patients received ATRA as part of induction therapy, resulting in cytogenetic but not a molecular remission in 1 patient who relapsed at 22 months after diagnosis (Nicci et al., 2005), and in complete hematological and molecular remission in the other case (Kikuma et al., 2015).
From these data, the response to ATRA is difficult to assess since it was not part of induction treatment in some cases and due to the limited number of patients. However, patients with NPM1/RARA fusion appear to be sensitive to ATRA (Hummel et al., 1999; Grimwade et al., 2000; Kikuma et al., 2015) and cells bearing the t(5;17) terminally differentiate in its response (Redner et al., 1996), indicating that ATRA can be used to treat NPM1/RARA-positive APL patients. It is also possible that the presence of the additional/complex karyotypic abnormalities may be related to the prognosis in this group of patients.


Additional anomalies

Sole anomaly in both adult patients (Nicci et al., 2005; Kikuma et al., 2015) and associated with additional anomalies in pediatric patients: del(12p) in 1 (Xu et al., 2001), i(21)(q10) in 1 (Otsubo et al., 2012) and complex anomalies in 2 cases (Hummel et al., 1999; Grimwade et al., 2000).


Variant chromosome translocations, which fuse RARA with 1 of the partner genes: PML (promyelocytic leukemia protein) in t(15;17)(q22;q21) that is found in the majority of APL patients; ZBTB16 (zinc finger and BTB domain containing 16, previously known as PLZF) in t(11;17)(q23;q21) (De Braekeleer et al., 2014); NUMA1 (nuclear matrix-mitotic apparatus protein 1 gene) in t(11;17)(q13;q21) (Wells et al., 1997); STAT5B (signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 beta) in dup(17)(q21.3q23) (Chen et al., 2012); PRKAR1A (protein kinase, cAMP-dependent, regulatory, type I, alpha) in t(17;17)(q21;q24)/del(17)(q21q24) (Catalano et al., 2007); FIP1L1 (factor interacting with PAP 1-like 1) in t(4;17)(q12;q21) (Buijs et al., 2007); NABP1 (OBFC2A: oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide-binding fold containing 2A) in der(2)t(2;17)(q32;q21) (Won et al., 2013); TBL1XR1 (TBLR1, GenBank KF589333) in a complex t(3;17)(q26;q21), t(7;17)(q11.2;q21) (Chen et al., 2014); BCOR (BCL6 corepressor gene) in t(X;17)(p11.4;q21) (Ichikawa et l., 2015) and the recently described new RARA partner IRF2BP2 (interferon regulatory factor 2 binding protein 2) in t(1;17)(q42.3; q21) (Yin et al., 2015).

Genes Involved and Proteins

Gene name
NPM1 (nucleophosmin)
Protein description
Gene for the nucleolar phosphoprotein nucleophosmin; would participate in ribosome assembly.
Gene name
RARA (Retinoic acid receptor, alpha)
Protein description
Gene for the retinoic acid receptor alpha. Ligand-dependent transcription factor specifically involved in hematopoietic cells differentiation and maturation. Receptor for all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and 9-cis RA. After linking with ATRA, RARA binds with RXR (retinoid X receptor protein) to the RARE domain (retinoic acid response elements), a DNA sequence common to a number of genes. The breakpoint lies within the second intron of the gene, as in t(15;17) and t(11;17) translocations.

Result of the Chromosomal Anomaly


Two reciprocal fusion genes are generated: 5-NPM1 + 3- RARA on der(5) and 5-RARa + 3-NPM on der(17); both fusion genes are transcribed, the crucial one is NPM1/RARA; two NPM1/RARA chimeric cDNAs are generated, one short and one long differing from 129 bp, with corresponding transcripts of 2.3 and 2.4 kb (alternatively spliced transcripts); in one case, only the short NPM1/RARA isoform could be detected; the 5 end of NPM1/RARA cDNAs contains the first 442 bp of the NPM1 cDNA; the 3 end contains RARA sequences of exon 3 through the 3 end of RARA; a reciprocal RARA/NPM1 transcript is detected: RARA exons 1 and 2 are fused to 3 NPM1 downstream bp 443.

Detection protocole

Nested RT-PCR.


Two NPM1/RARA proteins, of 563 and 520 amino acids, are encoded (MW 62 and 57 kDa); NPM1/RARA fusion protein acts as a retinoic acid-responsive transcriptional activator: increase of activity in a concentration dependant manner.

Highly cited references

Pubmed IDYearTitleCitations
263426912015A new transcriptional variant and small azurophilic granules in an acute promyelocytic leukemia case with NPM1/RARA fusion gene.8
339579992021Current views on the genetic landscape and management of variant acute promyelocytic leukemia.5
286996722017Myelomonocytic differentiation associated with NPM1-RARA rearrangement.2
303777632019Coexistence of t(5;17)/NPM1-RARA and t(9;22)/BCR-ABL1 in chronic myeloid leukemia at initial diagnosis.1
267545332016The leukemic oncoprotein NPM1-RARA inhibits TP53 activity.1
264204382015Erratum to: A new transcriptional variant and small azurophilic granules in an acute promyelocytic leukemia case with NPM1/RARA fusion gene.0


Pubmed IDLast YearTitleAuthors
88190701996Variant and masked translocations in acute promyelocytic leukemia.Brunel V et al
173018092007Fusion of FIP1L1 and RARA as a result of a novel t(4;17)(q12;q21) in a case of juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia.Buijs A et al
227490392012Acute promyelocytic leukemia with a STAT5b-RARα fusion transcript defined by array-CGH, FISH, and RT-PCR.Chen H et al
247825082014TBLR1 fuses to retinoid acid receptor α in a variant t(3;17)(q26;q21) translocation of acute promyelocytic leukemia.Chen Y et al
103395851999Distinct leukemia phenotypes in transgenic mice and different corepressor interactions generated by promyelocytic leukemia variant fusion genes PLZF-RARalpha and NPM-RARalpha.Cheng GX et al
80576721994A non-classical translocation involving 17q12 (retinoic acid receptor alpha) in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APML) with atypical features.Corey SJ et al
247203862014RARA fusion genes in acute promyelocytic leukemia: a review.De Braekeleer E et al
104688481999The pathogenesis of acute promyelocytic leukaemia: evaluation of the role of molecular diagnosis and monitoring in the management of the disease.Grimwade D et al
99898131999Deregulation of NPM and PLZF in a variant t(5;17) case of acute promyelocytic leukemia.Hummel JL et al
257909012015Successful treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia with a t(X;17)(p11.4;q21) and BCOR-RARA fusion gene.Ichikawa S et al
190526942009Spontaneous regression of aleukemic leukemia cutis harboring a NPM/RARA fusion gene in an infant with cutaneous mastocytosis.Kanegane H et al
263426912015A new transcriptional variant and small azurophilic granules in an acute promyelocytic leukemia case with NPM1/RARA fusion gene.Kikuma T et al
225733392012Acute promyelocytic leukemia following aleukemic leukemia cutis harboring NPM/RARA fusion gene.Otsubo K et al
89521641996PML, PLZF and NPM genes in the molecular pathogenesis of acute promyelocytic leukemia.Pandolfi PP et al
92049841997Differentiation of t(5;17) variant acute promyelocytic leukemic blasts by all-trans retinoic acid.Redner RL et al
85629571996The t(5;17) variant of acute promyelocytic leukemia expresses a nucleophosmin-retinoic acid receptor fusion.Redner RL et al
232878662013OBFC2A/RARA: a novel fusion gene in variant acute promyelocytic leukemia.Won D et al
255837662015Identification of a novel fusion gene, IRF2BP2-RARA, in acute promyelocytic leukemia.Yin CC et al


Fusion gene

NPM1/RARA NPM1 (5q35.1) RARA (17q21.2) M t(11;17)(q23;q21) t(15;17)(q22;q21) t(5;17)(q35;q21)|NPM1/RARA NPM1 (5q35.1) RARA (17q21.2) TIC


Adriana Zamecnikova ; Adriana Zamecnikova

t(5;17)(q35;q21) NPM1/RARA

Atlas Genet Cytogenet Oncol Haematol. 2017-01-01

Online version: http://atlasgeneticsoncology.org/haematological/1081/t(5;17)(q35;q21)

Historical Card

2000-03-01 t(5;17)(q35;q21) NPM1/RARA by  Franck Vigué 

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