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The distinct nature of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in adults, evidenced by inferior treatment outcome and different genetic landscape, mandates specific studies of disease-initiating mechanisms. In this study, we used NOD/LtSz-scid IL2Rγ nullc (NSG) mouse xenotransplantation approaches to elucidate leukemia-initiating cell (LIC) biology in primary adult precursor B (pre-B) ALL to optimize disease modeling. In contrast with xenografting studies of pediatric ALL, we found that modification of the NSG host environment using preconditioning total body irradiation (TBI) was indispensable for efficient engraftment of adult non-t(4;11) pre-B ALL, whereas t(4;11) pre-B ALL was successfully reconstituted without this adaptation. Furthermore, TBI-based xenotransplantation of non-t(4;11) pre-B ALL enabled detection of a high frequency of LICs (<1:6900) and permitted frank leukemic engraftment from a remission sample containing drugresistant minimal residual disease. Investigation of TBI-sensitive stromal-derived factor-1/chemokine receptor type 4 signaling revealed greater functional dependence of non-t(4;11) pre-B ALL on this niche-based interaction, providing a possible basis for the differential engraftment behavior. Thus, our studies establish the optimal conditions for experimental modeling of human adult pre-B ALL and demonstrate the critical protumorogenic role of microenvironment-derived SDF-1 in regulating adult pre-B LIC activity that may present a therapeutic opportunity. © 2014 by The American Society of Hematology.

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96 - 105