Intrapatient functional clonality deconvoluted by coupling intracellular flow cytometry and next-generation sequencing in human leukemia

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Abstract

The interplay between tumor heterogeneity and microenvironmental factors is a critical mechanism for clonal selection in leukemia. Evidence of unique clonal capacities to engraft within patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models suggests that intrapatient genetic architecture may be defined by functional differences at the clonal level. However, methods to detect functional differences assigned to genetically defined clones remain limited. Here, we describe a scalable method to directly measure the functional properties of clones within the same leukemia patient by coupling intracellular flow cytometry and next-generation sequencing (NGS). We provide proof of concept utilizing primary chronic myelmonocytic leukemia (CMML) samples and granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) to elucidate the interaction between tumor heterogeneity and microenvironmental factors. Mixtures of human leukemia cell lines, with known response to GM-CSF, were used to validate the accuracy of our methodology. Using this approach, we confirm that our method is capable of discriminating GM-CSF sensitive cell lines, identifies somatic variants in primary leukemia samples, and resolves functional clonal architecture in an illustrative patient. Taken together, our data describes a novel method to determine intrapatient functional clonal heterogeneity and provides proof-of-concept for future investigation aimed at elucidating the clinical relevance of functional clonal differences.

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