Asparagine synthetase (ASNS) is an enzyme expressed ubiquitously in mammalian cells. Here, we discovered two 14-bp tandem repeat (2R, wild-type) sequences in the first intron of the gene. The 14-bp sequence is similar to the three GC-boxes (GC-I, -II, and -III) found in the promoter region of the ASNS gene, as well as, the binding site of transcription factor Sp-1. Approximately 75% of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) samples had the 2R sequence in both allele; however, 20% and 3% ALL samples had three (3R) and four (4R) 14-bp tandem repeats in one allele, respectively; the other allele had 2R. The tandem repeat sequence was not specific to the leukemia cells but represents a novel germline polymorphism. Interestingly, the 14-bp sequence functioned as a transcriptional enhancer element as shown by reporter analysis and formed a protein-DNA complex in vitro. Our data for the first time show that the ASNS gene has tandem repeated sequences as a polymorphism, and it can function as a transcriptional element; increased number of tandem repeat producing increased activity. Clinical significance in ALL requires further studies.

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Leukemia Research: clinical and laboratory studies
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Akagi, T., Yin, D. S., Kawamata, N., Bartram, C., Hofmann, W. karsten ., Song, J. H., … Koeffler, P. (2009). Functional analysis of a novel DNA polymorphism of a tandem repeated sequence in the asparagine synthetase gene in acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells. Leukemia Research: clinical and laboratory studies, 33(7), 991–996. doi:10.1016/j.leukres.2008.10.022