Nucleophosmin (NPM1) mutations in adult and childhood acute myeloid leukaemia: Towards definition of a new leukaemia entity

Rachel Rau, Patrick Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Nucleophosmin (NPM) is a ubiquitously expressed chaperone protein that shuttles rapidly between the nucleus and cytoplasm, but predominantly resides in the nucleolus. It plays key roles in ribosome biogenesis, centrosome duplication, genomic stability, cell cycle progression and apoptosis. Somatic mutations in exon 12 of the NPM gene (NPM1) are the most frequent genetic abnormality in adult acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), found in approximately 35% of all cases and up to 60% of patients with normal karyotype (NK) AML. In children, NPM1 mutations are far less frequent, occurring in 8-10% of all AML cases, and in approximately 25% of those with a NK. NPM1 mutations lead to aberrant localization of the NPM protein into the cytoplasm, thus the designation, NPMc+ AML. NPMc+ AML is seen predominantly in patients with a NK and is essentially mutually exclusive of recurrent chromosomal translocations. Patients with NPM1 mutations are twice as likely as those who lack an NPM1 mutation to also have a FMS-like tyrosine kinase (FLT3) internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutation. NPMc+ AML is also characterized by a unique gene expression signature and microRNA signature. NPMc+ AML has important prognostic significance, as NPMc+ AML, in the absence of a coexisting FLT3-ITD mutation, is associated with a favourable outcome. NPM1 mutations have also shown great stability during disease evolution, and therefore represent a possible marker for minimal residual disease detection. Given its distinctive biologic and clinical features and its clear clinical relevance, NPMc+ AML is included as a provisional entity in the 2008 WHO classifications. There is still much to be learned about this genetic alteration, including its exact role in leukaemogenesis, how it interacts with other mutations and why it confers a more favourable prognosis. Further, it represents a potential therapeutic target warranting research aimed at identifying novel small molecules with activity in NPMc+ AML.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-181
Number of pages11
JournalHematological Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • AML
  • Acute myeloid leukaemia
  • NPM1
  • NPMc+
  • Nucleophosmin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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