Transforming genes in human leukemia cells.
High-molecular weight DNAs of fresh bone marrow cells from 32 patients with fresh leukemia were assayed for the presence of transmissible activated transforming genes by a DNA-mediated gene transfer technique using NIH/3T3 cells. DNAs of bone marrow cells from four of the 32 patients induced transformation of NIH/3T3 cells. Two of the four cases, a chronic myelogenous leukemia and an acute lymphocytic leukemia, contained activated N-ras oncogenes. Molecular cloning and nucleotide sequence analysis revealed that the lesion responsible for the transforming activity was localized to a single nucleotide transition from guanine to thymine in codon 12 of the predicted protein in each of the two cases. These observations indicate that activation of N-ras oncogenes is independent of the specific stage of cell differentiation or the leukemia phenotype. The other two transforming genes associated with an acute myelogenous leukemia and an acute lymphocytic leukemia showed homology neither with members of the ras gene family nor with the human Blym-1 gene. Thus, the NIH/3T3 transfection assay frequently detects activated N-ras oncogenes in human leukemias, while other transforming genes, distinct from the ras gene family, can be detected in some leukemias by the transfection assay.