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1.  mTORC1 is essential for leukemia propagation but not stem cell self-renewal 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(6):2114-2129.
Although dysregulation of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) promotes leukemogenesis, how mTORC1 affects established leukemia is unclear. We investigated the role of mTORC1 in mouse hematopoiesis using a mouse model of conditional deletion of Raptor, an essential component of mTORC1. Raptor deficiency impaired granulocyte and B cell development but did not alter survival or proliferation of hematopoietic progenitor cells. In a mouse model of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), Raptor deficiency significantly suppressed leukemia progression by causing apoptosis of differentiated, but not undifferentiated, leukemia cells. mTORC1 did not control cell cycle or cell growth in undifferentiated AML cells in vivo. Transplantation of Raptor-deficient undifferentiated AML cells in a limiting dilution revealed that mTORC1 is essential for leukemia initiation. Strikingly, a subset of AML cells with undifferentiated phenotypes survived long-term in the absence of mTORC1 activity. We further demonstrated that the reactivation of mTORC1 in those cells restored their leukemia-initiating capacity. Thus, AML cells lacking mTORC1 activity can self-renew as AML stem cells. Our findings provide mechanistic insight into how residual tumor cells circumvent anticancer therapies and drive tumor recurrence.
PMCID: PMC3366413  PMID: 22622041
2.  TGF-β-Neutralizing Antibody 1D11 Enhances Cytarabine-Induced Apoptosis in AML Cells in the Bone Marrow Microenvironment 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e62785.
Hypoxia and interactions with bone marrow (BM) stromal cells have emerged as essential components of the leukemic BM microenvironment in promoting leukemia cell survival and chemoresistance. High levels of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ1) produced by BM stromal cells in the BM niche regulate cell proliferation, survival, and apoptosis, depending on the cellular context. Exogenous TGFβ1 induced accumulation of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells in a quiescent G0 state, which was further facilitated by the co-culture with BM-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). In turn, TGFβ-neutralizing antibody 1D11 abrogated rhTGFβ1 induced cell cycle arrest. Blocking TGFβ with 1D11 further enhanced cytarabine (Ara-C)–induced apoptosis of AML cells in hypoxic and in normoxic conditions. Additional constituents of BM niche, the stroma-secreted chemokine CXCL12 and its receptor CXCR4 play crucial roles in cell migration and stroma/leukemia cell interactions. Treatment with 1D11 combined with CXCR4 antagonist plerixafor and Ara-C decreased leukemia burden and prolonged survival in an in vivo leukemia model. These results indicate that blockade of TGFβ by 1D11 and abrogation of CXCL12/CXCR4 signaling may enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy against AML cells in the hypoxic BM microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3695026  PMID: 23826077
3.  The AML1-ETO fusion gene and the FLT3 length mutation collaborate in inducing acute leukemia in mice 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(8):2159-2168.
The molecular characterization of leukemia has demonstrated that genetic alterations in the leukemic clone frequently fall into 2 classes, those affecting transcription factors (e.g., AML1-ETO) and mutations affecting genes involved in signal transduction (e.g., activating mutations of FLT3 and KIT). This finding has favored a model of leukemogenesis in which the collaboration of these 2 classes of genetic alterations is necessary for the malignant transformation of hematopoietic progenitor cells. The model is supported by experimental data indicating that AML1-ETO and FLT3 length mutation (FLT3-LM), 2 of the most frequent genetic alterations in AML, are both insufficient on their own to cause leukemia in animal models. Here we report that AML1-ETO collaborates with FLT3-LM in inducing acute leukemia in a murine BM transplantation model. Moreover, in a series of 135 patients with AML1-ETO–positive AML, the most frequently identified class of additional mutations affected genes involved in signal transduction pathways including FLT3-LM or mutations of KIT and NRAS. These data support the concept of oncogenic cooperation between AML1-ETO and a class of activating mutations, recurrently found in patients with t(8;21), and provide a rationale for therapies targeting signal transduction pathways in AML1-ETO–positive leukemias.
PMCID: PMC1174917  PMID: 16025155
4.  Down-Regulation of the Oncogene PTTG1 via the KLF6 Tumor Suppressor during Induction of Myeloid Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71282.
The aberrant expression of proto-oncogenes is involved in processes that are responsible for cellular proliferation and the inhibition of myeloid differentiation in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Pituitary Tumor-Transforming gene 1 (PTTG1), an oncogenic transcription factor, is abundantly expressed in various human cancers and hematopoietic malignancies. However, its expression in normal leukocytes and most normal tissues is very low or undetectable. The mechanism by which PTTG1 overexpression modifies myeloid cell development and promotes leukemogenesis remain unclear. To investigate the mechanistic links between PTTG1 overexpression and leukemia cell differentiation, we utilized phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), a well-known agent that triggers monocyte/macrophage differentiation, to analyze the expression patterns of PTTG1 in PMA-induced myeloid differentiation. We found that PTTG1 is down-regulated at the transcriptional level in PMA-treated HL-60 and THP1 cells. In addition, we identified a binding site for a tumor suppressor protein, Kruppel-like factor 6 (KLF6), in the PTTG1 promoter. We found that KLF6 could directly bind and repress PTTG1 expression. In HL-60 and THP1 cells, KLF6 mRNA and protein levels are up-regulated with a concordant reduction of PTTG1 expression upon treatment with PMA. Furthermore, KLF6 knockdown by shRNA abolished the suppression of PTTG1 and reduced the activation of the differentiation marker CD11b in PMA-primed cells. The protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor and the MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor significantly blocked the potentiation of PMA-mediated KLF6 induction and the down-regulation of PTTG1, indicating that PTTG1 is suppressed via the activation of PKC/ERK/KLF6 pathway. Our findings suggest that drugs that increase the KLF6 inhibition of PTTG1 may have a therapeutic application in AML treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC3745464  PMID: 23977008
5.  Global Identification of EVI1 Target Genes in Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67134.
The ecotropic virus integration site 1 (EVI1) transcription factor is associated with human myeloid malignancy of poor prognosis and is overexpressed in 8–10% of adult AML and strikingly up to 27% of pediatric MLL-rearranged leukemias. For the first time, we report comprehensive genomewide EVI1 binding and whole transcriptome gene deregulation in leukemic cells using a combination of ChIP-Seq and RNA-Seq expression profiling. We found disruption of terminal myeloid differentiation and cell cycle regulation to be prominent in EVI-induced leukemogenesis. Specifically, we identified EVI1 directly binds to and downregulates the master myeloid differentiation gene Cebpe and several of its downstream gene targets critical for terminal myeloid differentiation. We also found EVI1 binds to and downregulates Serpinb2 as well as numerous genes involved in the Jak-Stat signaling pathway. Finally, we identified decreased expression of several ATP-dependent P2X purinoreceptors genes involved in apoptosis mechanisms. These findings provide a foundation for future study of potential therapeutic gene targets for EVI1-induced leukemia.
PMCID: PMC3694976  PMID: 23826213
6.  In Vitro Transformation of Primary Human CD34+ Cells by AML Fusion Oncogenes: Early Gene Expression Profiling Reveals Possible Drug Target in AML 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12464.
Different fusion oncogenes in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) have distinct clinical and laboratory features suggesting different modes of malignant transformation. Here we compare the in vitro effects of representatives of 4 major groups of AML fusion oncogenes on primary human CD34+ cells. As expected from their clinical similarities, MLL-AF9 and NUP98-HOXA9 had very similar effects in vitro. They both caused erythroid hyperplasia and a clear block in erythroid and myeloid maturation. On the other hand, AML1-ETO and PML-RARA had only modest effects on myeloid and erythroid differentiation. All oncogenes except PML-RARA caused a dramatic increase in long-term proliferation and self-renewal. Gene expression profiling revealed two distinct temporal patterns of gene deregulation. Gene deregulation by MLL-AF9 and NUP98-HOXA9 peaked 3 days after transduction. In contrast, the vast majority of gene deregulation by AML1-ETO and PML-RARA occurred within 6 hours, followed by a dramatic drop in the numbers of deregulated genes. Interestingly, the p53 inhibitor MDM2 was upregulated by AML1-ETO at 6 hours. Nutlin-3, an inhibitor of the interaction between MDM2 and p53, specifically inhibited the proliferation and self-renewal of primary human CD34+ cells transduced with AML1-ETO, suggesting that MDM2 upregulation plays a role in cell transformation by AML1-ETO. These data show that differences among AML fusion oncogenes can be recapitulated in vitro using primary human CD34+ cells and that early gene expression profiling in these cells can reveal potential drug targets in AML.
PMCID: PMC2929205  PMID: 20805992
7.  High levels of the adhesion molecule CD44 on leukemic cells generate acute myeloid leukemia relapse after withdrawal of the initial transforming event 
Leukemia  2010;25(3):515-526.
Multiple genetic hits are detected in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). To investigate this further, we developed a tetracycline-inducible mouse model of AML, in which the initial transforming event, overexpression of HOXA10, can be eliminated. Continuous overexpression of HOXA10 is required to generate AML in primary recipient mice, but is not essential for maintenance of the leukemia. Transplantation of AML to secondary recipients showed that in established leukemias, ∼80% of the leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) in bone marrow stopped proliferating upon withdrawal of HOXA10 overexpression. However, the population of LICs in primary recipients is heterogeneous, as ∼20% of the LICs induce leukemia in secondary recipients despite elimination of HOXA10-induced overexpression. Intrinsic genetic activation of several proto-oncogenes was observed in leukemic cells resistant to inactivation of the initial transformation event. Interestingly, high levels of the adhesion molecule CD44 on leukemic cells are essential to generate leukemia after removal of the primary event. This suggests that extrinsic niche-dependent factors are also involved in the host-dependent outgrowth of leukemias after withdrawal of HOXA10 overexpression event that initiates the leukemia.
PMCID: PMC3072510  PMID: 21116281
acute myeloid leukemia; homeobox; HOXA10; CD44; leukemia addiction; leukemia-initiating cells
8.  microRNA-29a induces aberrant self-renewal capacity in hematopoietic progenitors, biased myeloid development, and acute myeloid leukemia 
The function of microRNAs (miRNAs) in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), committed progenitors, and leukemia stem cells (LSCs) is poorly understood. We show that miR-29a is highly expressed in HSC and down-regulated in hematopoietic progenitors. Ectopic expression of miR-29a in mouse HSC/progenitors results in acquisition of self-renewal capacity by myeloid progenitors, biased myeloid differentiation, and the development of a myeloproliferative disorder that progresses to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). miR-29a promotes progenitor proliferation by expediting G1 to S/G2 cell cycle transitions. miR-29a is overexpressed in human AML and, like human LSC, miR-29a-expressing myeloid progenitors serially transplant AML. Our data indicate that miR-29a regulates early hematopoiesis and suggest that miR-29a initiates AML by converting myeloid progenitors into self-renewing LSC.
PMCID: PMC2839143  PMID: 20212066
9.  Overexpression of the local bone marrow renin-angiotensin system in acute myeloid leukemia. 
OBJECTIVES: Local bone marrow renin-angiotensin system (RAS) is an autocrine-paracrine system affecting hematopoiesis. Angiotensin II stimulates the proliferation of bone marrow and umbilical cord blood hematopoietic progenitors. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) hyperfunction may lead to the acceleration of negative hematopoietic regulator peptide, AcSDKP, metabolism, which in turn lowers its level in the bone marrow microenvironment, finally removing the antiproliferative effect of AcSDKP on the hematopoietic cells and blasts. The aim of this study is therefore to search those major RAS components simultaneously in the leukemic blast cells taken from the bone marrow of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). METHODS: Bone marrow aspiration materials were obtained from 10 patients with AML (8 males, 2 females; median age 48.5 years) and 8 patients with nonmalignant hematological disorders (6 males, 2 females; median age 45 years). EDTA-treated bone marrow samples were stored at -70 degrees C until analysis. Total RNA was extracted from 200-microl bone marrow samples by High Pure RNA Isolation Kit. RESULTS: The medians of expression ratios of AML patient samples have been found 0.736 (IQR 1.359), 0.540 (IQR 0.725), and 0.075 (IQR 0.002) for ACE, ANG and REN genes, respectively. All three gene expressions were found to be significantly higher in the bone marrow samples of AML patients. CONCLUSION: In this study, the expression of the mRNAs of the major RAS components-namely ACE, renin and angiotensinogen-in human bone marrow samples were quantified by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to confirm the presence of the local bone marrow RAS. Elucidation of the pathological activity of the local RAS-mediated regulation of the leukemogenesis is both pathobiologically and clinically important, since the angiotensin peptides represent a molecular target in the disease management.
PMCID: PMC2569610  PMID: 17304969
10.  Deacetylase inhibitors modulate proliferation and self-renewal properties of leukemic stem and progenitor cells 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(17):3219-3226.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a highly malignant disease that is not curable in the majority of patients. Numerous non-random genetic abnormalities are known, among which several translocations such as PLZF/RARα or AML1/ETO are known to aberrantly recruit histone deacetylases. Deacetylase inhibitors (DACi) are promising drugs leading to growth inhibition, cell cycle arrest, premature senescence and apoptosis in malignant cells. It is believed that DACi may have clinical efficacy by eradicating the most primitive population of leukemic stem and progenitor cells, possibly by interfering with self-renewal.
The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of DACi on leukemic stem and progenitor cells using murine transduction-transplantation models of hematopoietic cells harboring the leukemia-associated fusion proteins (LAFP) PLZF/RARα or a truncated AML1/ETO protein (AML1/ETO exon 9). We show that the self-renewal and short-term repopulation capacity of AML1/ETO- or PLZF/RARα-expressing Sca1+/lin- stem and progenitor cells are profoundly inhibited by clinically applicable concentrations of the DACi dacinostat and vorinostat. To further investigate the mechanisms underlying these effects, we examined the impact of DACi on the transcription factor c-MYC and the Polycomb group protein BMI1, which are induced by LAFP and involved in leukemic transformation. In AML1/ETO or PLZF/RARα-positive 32D cells, DACi-mediated antiproliferative effects were associated with downregulation of BMI1 and c-MYC protein levels. Similar effects were demonstrated in primary samples of cytogenetically defined high-risk AML patients. In conclusion, DACi may be effective as maintenance therapy by negatively interfering with signaling pathways that control survival and proliferation of leukemic stem and progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC3466521  PMID: 22895185
acute myeloid leukemia; leukemic stem cells; deacetylase inhibitor; BMI1; self-renewal; short-term repopulation; dacinostat; vorinostat
11.  Distinct regulation of c-myb gene expression by HoxA9, Meis1 and Pbx proteins in normal hematopoietic progenitors and transformed myeloid cells 
Blood Cancer Journal  2012;2(6):e76-.
The proto-oncogenic protein c-Myb is an essential regulator of hematopoiesis and is frequently deregulated in hematological diseases such as lymphoma and leukemia. To gain insight into the mechanisms underlying the aberrant expression of c-Myb in myeloid leukemia, we analyzed and compared c-myb gene transcriptional regulation using two cell lines modeling normal hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) and transformed myelomonocytic blasts. We report that the transcription factors HoxA9, Meis1, Pbx1 and Pbx2 bind in vivo to the c-myb locus and maintain its expression through different mechanisms in HPCs and leukemic cells. Our analysis also points to a critical role for Pbx2 in deregulating c-myb expression in murine myeloid cells cotransformed by the cooperative activity of HoxA9 and Meis1. This effect is associated with an intronic positioning of epigenetic marks and RNA polymerase II binding in the orthologous region of a previously described alternative promoter for c-myb. Taken together, our results could provide a first hint to explain the abnormal expression of c-myb in leukemic cells.
PMCID: PMC3389162  PMID: 22829978
c-myb; hematopoietic progenitors; myeloid leukemia; Hox and TALE proteins
12.  New Agents in Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Beyond Cytarabine and Anthracyclines 
Current oncology reports  2009;11(5):346-352.
The standard therapeutic approaches for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) continue to be based on anthracyclines and cytarabine. However, the prognosis for AML remains poor, especially for patients with high-risk disease. During the past decade, promising novel agents that target DNA replication and repair, as well as cell cycling and apoptosis, have been developed and are being actively investigated in AML. Among these agents is flavopiridol, which interferes with key steps of the cell cycle and effectively promotes cell death, and voreloxin, an intercalating agent that also targets topoisomerase II. Also under clinical study in AML are oligonucleotide antisense constructs, which suppress the translation of proteins essential for leukemic blast survival and proliferation, and agents that target antiapoptotic cascades. In summary, it is hoped that novel therapies such as these will augment and/or supplant our current cytarabine- and anthracycline-based approaches, overcome active drug-resistance pathways, and eventually improve outcomes for patients with AML.
PMCID: PMC3066101  PMID: 19679009
13.  CREB and Leukemogenesis 
Critical reviews in oncogenesis  2011;16(1-2):37-46.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common leukemias with a 20% 5-year event-free survival in adults and 50% overall survival in children, despite aggressive chemotherapy treatment and bone marrow transplantation. The incidence and mortality rates for acute leukemia have only slightly decreased over the last 20 years and therefore greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms associated with leukemic progression is needed. To this end, a number of transcription factors which appear to play a central role in leukemogenesis are being investigated; among them is the cAMP response element binding protein (CREB). CREB is a transcription factor that can regulate downstream targets involving in various cellular functions including cell proliferation, survival, and differentiation. In several studies, the majority of bone marrow samples from patients with acute lymphoid and myeloid leukemia demonstrate CREB overexpression. Moreover, CREB overexpression is associated with a poor outcome in AML patients. This review summarizes the role of CREB in leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3243968  PMID: 22150306
CREB; Leukemia; Oncogenesis; Transcription Factors
14.  High Erk-1 activation and Gadd45a expression as prognostic markers in high risk pediatric haemolymphoproliferative diseases 
Studies on activated cell-signaling pathways responsible for neoplastic transformation are numerous in solid tumors and in adult leukemias. Despite of positive results in the evolution of pediatric hematopoietic neoplasias, there are some high-risk subtypes at worse prognosis. The aim of this study was to asses the expression and activation status of crucial proteins involved in cell-signaling pathways in order to identify molecular alterations responsible for the proliferation and/or escape from apoptosis of leukemic blasts. The quantitative and qualitative expression and activation of Erk-1, c-Jun, Caspase8, and Gadd45a was analyzed, by immunocytochemical (ICC) and western blotting methods, in bone marrow blasts of 72 patients affected by acute myeloid leukemia (AML), T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and stage IV non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). We found an upregulation of Erk-1, Caspase8, c-Jun, and Gadd45a proteins with a constitutive activation in 95.8%, 91.7%, 86.2%, 83.4% of analyzed specimens, respectively. It is worth noting that all AML patients showed an upregulation of all proteins studied and the high expression of GADD45a was associated to the lowest DFS median (p = 0.04). On univariate analysis, only Erk-1 phosphorylation status was found to be correlated with a significantly shorter 5-years DFS in all disease subgroups (p = 0.033) and the lowest DFS median in ALL/NHL subgroup (p = 0.04). Moreover, the simultaneous activation of multiple kinases, as we found for c-Jun and Erk-1 (r = 0.26; p = 0.025), might synergistically enhance survival and proliferation potential of leukemic cells. These results demonstrate an involvement of these proteins in survival of blast cells and, consequently, on relapse percentages of the different subgroups of patients.
PMCID: PMC2664791  PMID: 19298651
15.  Persistent Transactivation by Meis1 Replaces Hox Function in Myeloid Leukemogenesis Models: Evidence for Co-Occupancy of Meis1-Pbx and Hox-Pbx Complexes on Promoters of Leukemia-Associated Genes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(10):3902-3916.
Homeobox transcription factors Meis1 and Hoxa9 promote hematopoietic progenitor self-renewal and cooperate to cause acute myeloid leukemia (AML). While Hoxa9 alone blocks the differentiation of nonleukemogenic myeloid cell-committed progenitors, coexpression with Meis1 is required for the production of AML-initiating progenitors, which also transcribe a group of hematopoietic stem cell genes, including Cd34 and Flt3 (defined as Meis1-related leukemic signature genes). Here, we use dominant trans-activating (Vp16 fusion) or trans-repressing (engrailed fusion) forms of Meis1 to define its biochemical functions that contribute to leukemogenesis. Surprisingly, Vp16-Meis1 (but not engrailed-Meis1) functioned as an autonomous oncoprotein that mimicked combined activities of Meis1 plus Hoxa9, immortalizing early progenitors, inducing low-level expression of Meis1-related signature genes, and causing leukemia without coexpression of exogenous or endogenous Hox genes. Vp16-Meis1-mediated transformation required the Meis1 function of binding to Pbx and DNA but not its C-terminal domain (CTD). The absence of endogenous Hox gene expression in Vp16-Meis1-immortalized progenitors allowed us to investigate how Hox alters gene expression and cell biology in early hematopoietic progenitors. Strikingly, expression of Hoxa9 or Hoxa7 stimulated both leukemic aggressiveness and transcription of Meis1-related signature genes in Vp16-Meis1 progenitors. Interestingly, while the Hoxa9 N-terminal domain (NTD) is essential for cooperative transformation with wild-type Meis1, it was dispensable in Vp16-Meis1 progenitors. The fact that a dominant transactivation domain fused to Meis1 replaces the essential functions of both the Meis1 CTD and Hoxa9 NTD suggests that Meis-Pbx and Hox-Pbx (or Hox-Pbx-Meis) complexes co-occupy cellular promoters that drive leukemogenesis and that Meis1 CTD and Hox NTD cooperate in gene activation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed co-occupancy of Hoxa9 and Meis1 on the Flt3 promoter.
PMCID: PMC1488994  PMID: 16648484
16.  Epigenetics in Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
Seminars in oncology  2008;35(4):378-387.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a disease characterized by uncontrolled proliferation of clonal neoplastic hematopoietic precursor cells. This leads to the disruption of normal hematopoiesis and bone marrow failure. Major breakthroughs in the past have contributed to our understanding of the genetic failures and the changed biology in AML cells that underlie the initiation and progression of the disease. It is now recognized that not only genetic but also epigenetic alterations are similarly important in this process. Since these alterations do not change the DNA sequences and are pharmacologically reversible, they have been regarded as optimal targets for what is now known as epigenetic therapy. In this review, we will discuss our current understanding of normal epigenetic processes, outline our knowledge of epigenetic alterations in AML, and discuss how this information is being used to improve current therapy of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3463865  PMID: 18692688
17.  Molecular prognostic markers for adult acute myeloid leukemia with normal cytogenetics 
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a heterogenous disorder that results from a block in the differentiation of hematopoietic progenitor cells along with uncontrolled proliferation. In approximately 60% of cases, specific recurrent chromosomal aberrations can be identified by modern cytogenetic techniques. This cytogenetic information is the single most important tool to classify patients at their initial diagnosis into three prognostic categories: favorable, intermediate, and poor risk. Currently, favorable risk AML patients are usually treated with contemporary chemotherapy while poor risk AML patients receive allogeneic stem cell transplantation if suitable stem cell donors exist. The largest subgroup of AML patients (~40%) have no identifiable cytogenetic abnormalities and are classified as intermediate risk. The optimal therapeutic strategies for these patients are still largely unclear. Recently, it is becoming increasingly evident that it is possible to identify a subgroup of poorer risk patients among those with normal cytogenic AML (NC-AML). Molecular risk stratification for NC-AML patients may be possible due to mutations of NPM1, FLT3, MLL, and CEBPα as well as alterations in expression levels of BAALC, MN1, ERG, and AF1q. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm if poorer risk NC-AML patients have improved clinical outcomes after more aggressive therapy.
PMCID: PMC2700131  PMID: 19490647
18.  The homeobox gene CDX2 is aberrantly expressed in most cases of acute myeloid leukemia and promotes leukemogenesis  
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(4):1037-1048.
The homeobox transcription factor CDX2 plays an important role in embryonic development and regulates the proliferation and differentiation of intestinal epithelial cells in the adult. We have found that CDX2 is expressed in leukemic cells of 90% of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) but not in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells derived from normal individuals. Stable knockdown of CDX2 expression by RNA interference inhibited the proliferation of various human AML cell lines and strongly reduced their clonogenic potential in vitro. Primary murine hematopoietic progenitor cells transduced with Cdx2 acquired serial replating activity, were able to be continuously propagated in liquid culture, generated fully penetrant and transplantable AML in BM transplant recipients, and displayed dysregulated expression of Hox family members in vitro and in vivo. These results demonstrate that aberrant expression of the developmental regulatory gene CDX2 in the adult hematopoietic compartment is a frequent event in the pathogenesis of AML; suggest a role for CDX2 as part of a common effector pathway that promotes the proliferative capacity and self-renewal potential of myeloid progenitor cells; and support the hypothesis that CDX2 is responsible, in part, for the altered HOX gene expression that is observed in most cases of AML.
PMCID: PMC1810574  PMID: 17347684
19.  Mapping of MN1 Sequences Necessary for Myeloid Transformation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61706.
The MN1 oncogene is deregulated in human acute myeloid leukemia and its overexpression induces proliferation and represses myeloid differentiation of primitive human and mouse hematopoietic cells, leading to myeloid leukemia in mouse models. To delineate the sequences within MN1 necessary for MN1-induced leukemia, we tested the transforming capacity of in-frame deletion mutants, using retroviral transduction of mouse bone marrow. We found that integrity of the regions between amino acids 12 to 458 and 1119 to 1273 are required for MN1’s in vivo transforming activity, generating myeloid leukemia with some mutants also producing T-cell lympho-leukemia and megakaryocytic leukemia. Although both full length MN1 and a mutant that lacks the residues between 12–228 (Δ12–228 mutant) repressed myeloid differentiation and increased myeloproliferative activity in vitro, the mutant lost its transforming activity in vivo. Both MN1 and Δ12–228 increased the frequency of common myeloid progentiors (CMP) in vitro and microarray comparisons of purified MN1-CMP and Δ12–228-CMP cells showed many differentially expressed genes including Hoxa9, Meis1, Myb, Runx2, Cebpa, Cebpb and Cebpd. This collection of immediate MN1-responsive candidate genes distinguishes the leukemic activity from the in vitro myeloproliferative capacity of this oncoprotein.
PMCID: PMC3634013  PMID: 23626719
20.  SNS-032 inhibits mTORC1/mTORC2 activity in acute myeloid leukemia cells and has synergistic activity with perifosine against Akt 
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a heterogeneous disorder with aberrant regulation of a variety of signal pathways. Therefore, simultaneous targeting of two or even more deregulated signal transduction pathways is needed to overcome drug resistance. Previously, it was reported that SNS-032, a selective cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, is an effective agent for treatment of AML; however, the molecular mechanisms of SNS-032-induced cell death of AML cells are not yet fully understood. The aim of the study was to characterize the effects in vitro of SNS-032, used alone and in combination with an Akt inhibitor perifosine, against AML cells and to identify the mechanism involved.
SNS-032 significantly induced cytotoxicity in human AML cell lines and blasts from patients with newly diagnosed or relapsed AML. However, Kasumi-1 cells and some of leukemic samples (14.9%) from AML patients were resistant to SNS-032-mediated cell death. Western blot analysis showed that SNS-032 strongly inhibited the phosphorylation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) on Ser 2448 and Ser2481, and that removal of SNS-032 resulted in partial recovery of cell death and reactivation of phosphorylation of mTOR. Moreover, exogenous insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) did not reverse SNS-032-induced cell growth inhibition and downregualtion of phosphor-mTOR at Ser2448 and Ser2481 although slight suppression of IGF-1R expression was triggered by the agent. Furthermore, SNS-032 at a lower concentration (60–80 nM) enhanced AML cell cytotoxicity induced by perifosine, an Akt inhibitor. Importantly, SNS-032 treatment reduced colony formation ability of AML cells, which was significantly increased when two agents were combined. This combination therapy led to almost complete inhibition of Akt activity.
We conclude that SNS-032 might directly target mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1)/mTORC2. Our results further provide a rationale for combining SNS-032 with perifosine for the treatment of AML.
PMCID: PMC3599109  PMID: 23415012
SNS-032; mTORC1; mTORC2; Cyclin-dependent kinases; Perifosine; Akt; Acute myeloid leukemia
21.  Metabolism and the leukemic stem cell 
Acute leukemias are clonal disorders of hematopoiesis wherein a leukemic stem cell (LSC) acquires mutations that confer the capacity for unlimited self-renewal, impaired hematopoietic differentiation, and enhanced proliferation to the leukemic clone. Many recent advances in understanding the biology of leukemia have come from studies defining specific genetic and epigenetic abnormalities in leukemic cells. Three recent articles, however, further our understanding of leukemia biology by elucidating specific abnormalities in metabolic pathways in leukemic hematopoiesis. These studies potentially converge on the concept that modulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) abundance may influence the pathogenesis and treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
PMCID: PMC2856035  PMID: 20368582
22.  Survivin Selectively Modulates Genes Deregulated in Human Leukemia Stem Cells 
Journal of Oncology  2010;2011:946936.
ITD-Flt3 mutations are detected in leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. While antagonizing Survivin normalizes ITD-Flt3-induced acute leukemia, it also impairs hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) function, indicating that identification of differences in signaling pathways downstream of Survivin between LSC and HSC are crucial to develop selective Survivin-based therapeutic strategies for AML. Using a Survivin-deletion model, we identified 1,096 genes regulated by Survivin in ITD-Flt3-transformed c-kit+, Sca-1+, and lineageneg (KSL) cells, of which 137 are deregulated in human LSC. Of the 137, 124 genes were regulated by Survivin exclusively in ITD-Flt3+ KSL cells but not in normal CD34neg KSL cells. Survivin-regulated genes in LSC connect through a network associated with the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling pathway and falls into various functional categories independent of effects on apoptosis. Pathways downstream of Survivin in LSC that are distinct from HSC can be potentially targeted for selective anti-LSC therapy.
PMCID: PMC3021862  PMID: 21253548
23.  Loss of C/EBPα cell cycle control increases myeloid progenitor proliferation and transforms the neutrophil granulocyte lineage 
CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP)α is a myeloid-specific transcription factor that couples lineage commitment to terminal differentiation and cell cycle arrest, and is found mutated in 9% of patients who have acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We previously showed that mutations which dissociate the ability of C/EBPα to block cell cycle progression through E2F inhibition from its function as a transcriptional activator impair the in vivo development of the neutrophil granulocyte and adipose lineages. We now show that such mutations increase the capacity of bone marrow (BM) myeloid progenitors to proliferate, and predispose mice to a granulocytic myeloproliferative disorder and transformation of the myeloid compartment of the BM. Both of these phenotypes were transplantable into lethally irradiated recipients. BM transformation was characterized by a block in granulocyte differentiation, accumulation of myeloblasts and promyelocytes, and expansion of myeloid progenitor populations—all characteristics of AML. Circulating myeloblasts and hepatic leukocyte infiltration were observed, but thrombocytopenia, anemia, and elevated leukocyte count—normally associated with AML—were absent. These results show that disrupting the cell cycle regulatory function of C/EBPα is sufficient to initiate AML-like transformation of the granulocytic lineage, but only partially the peripheral pathology of AML.
PMCID: PMC2212897  PMID: 15983063
24.  Id1 immortalizes hematopoietic progenitors in vitro and promotes a myeloproliferative disease in vivo 
Oncogene  2008;27(42):5612-5623.
Id1 is frequently overexpressed in many cancer cells, but the functional significance of these findings is not known. To determine if Id1 could contribute to the development of hematopoietic malignancy, we reconstituted mice with hematopoietic cells overexpressing Id1. We showed for the first time that deregulated expression of Id1 leads to a myeloproliferative disease in mice, and immortalizes myeloid progenitors in vitro. In human cells, we demonstrate that Id genes are expressed in human acute myelogenous leukemia cells, and that knock down of Id1 expression inhibits leukemic cell line growth, suggesting that Id1 is required for leukemic cell proliferation. These findings established a causal relationship between Id1 overexpression and hematologic malignancy. Thus, deregulated expression of Id1 may contribute to the initiation of myeloid malignancy, and Id1 may represent a potential therapeutic target for early stage intervention in the treatment of hematopoietic malignancy.
PMCID: PMC3073486  PMID: 18542061
Id1; myeloproliferative disease; leukemia; therapeutic target; prevention
25.  Expression of connexin 32 and connexin 43 in acute myeloid leukemia and their roles in proliferation 
Oncology Letters  2012;4(5):1003-1007.
Connexins (Cxs), a conserved family of trans-membrane proteins, function in the organization of cell-cell communicatin via gap junctions in multicellular organisms. However, the role of Cxs in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the relationship between cell proliferation and expression of connexin 43 (Cx43) and connexin 32 (Cx32) mRNA and proteins in acute myeloid leukemia in vitro. Proliferation was observed using a growth curve and the rate of proliferation was detected by MTT assay in the acute myeloid leukemia cell lines OCI-AML3 and OCIM2. Cell cycle and cell proliferation index were assessed by flow cytometry analysis. The mRNA expression of the gap junction genes Cx43 and Cx32 was detected by RT-PCR. The expression of Cx43 and Cx32 proteins in the cell lines was analyzed by western blot analysis and immunofluorescence. The doubling time of OCI-AML3 and OCIM2 was 48 h and 36 h, respectively. In OCIM2, the percentage of cells in the S phase fraction was 59.47±9.6%, and the proliferation rate was 78.12±8.9%; however, in OCI-AML3, the percentage of cells in the S phase was 24.95±5.8%, and the proliferation rate was 35.21±6.7%. At the mRNA level, both cell lines expressed Cx43 and Cx32, and there was no significant difference in the expression of Cx43 and Cx32 mRNA in the two cell lines. At the protein level, there was a significant difference in the expression of Cx43, but not of Cx32. The proliferation ability of OCIM2 was higher than OCI-AML3, and OCIM2 exhibited higher Cx43 western blot and fluorescence intensities compared with OCI-AML3. The results suggest that a higher expression of Cx43 in AML cells may play a significant role in the proliferation ability.
PMCID: PMC3499603  PMID: 23162640
connexins; acute myeloid leukemia; proliferation; expression

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