Background: Nucleophosmin 1 (NPM1) mutations, which occur in 25 - 30% of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and 50 - 60% of AML with normal karyotype, have been identified as an important marker for stratification of prog-nosis in AML. This study aimed to establish a new quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique, the drop-off droplet digital PCR (ddPCR), for rapid and sensitive detection of NPM1 mutations in AML.
Methods: We established the drop-off ddPCR system and verified its performance. NPM1 mutations were screened in 130 AML patients by drop-off ddPCR and were validated by Sanger sequencing and next-generation sequencing (NGS). Then, the NPM1 mutation burden was dynamically monitored in five patients.
Results: The limit of blank (LOB) of drop-off ddPCR established for NPM1 mutation was 3.36 copies/μL, and the limit of detection (LOD) was 5.00 - 5.37 copies/μL in 50 ng DNA, and the sensitivity was about 0.05%, which had good linearity. Drop-off ddPCR identified 33/130 (25.4%) NPM1 mutated cases, consistent with Sanger sequencing. In 18 NPM1 positive cases selected randomly, NGS identified fourteen with type A mutation, two with type D mutation, and two with rare type mutations. The mutation burden of NPM1 mutation analyzed by NGS was consistent with the drop-off ddPCR. The sequential samples were detected for measurable residual disease (MRD) monitoring in 5 patients showed that the NPM1 mutation burden was consistent with clinical remission and recurrence. Compared with traditional ddPCR, drop-off ddPCR was also suitable for MRD monitoring.
Conclusions: In this study, we established a drop-off ddPCR method for detecting three common mutations in AML with good sensitivity and repeatability, which can be used to screen mutations in newly diagnosed AML patients and for MRD monitoring after remission to guide treatment.