A subgroup of acute leukemia with morphology resembling acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) shows variant translocations involving RARA and has a different morphology from that of classical APL. The variant APL with t(11;17)(q23;q12); ZBTB16-RARA subgroup has been reported to have leukemic cells with regular nuclei, many granules, absence of Auer rods, an increased number of Pelgeroid neutrophils, strong myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity, and all-trans-retinoic-acid (ATRA) resistance. Here, we report a case of variant APL with t(11;17)(q23;q12); ZBTB16-RARA showing typical morphological features of classical APL, including numerous Auer rods and faggot cells. The leukemic cells expressed CD13, CD33, CD117, human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR, and cytoplasmic-MPO on the immunophenotyping study. The diagnosis was confirmed by cytogenetic and molecular studies. To distinguish variant APL cases from classical APL cases, regardless of whether morphologically the findings are consistent with those of classical APL, combining morphologic, immunophenotypic, cytogenetic, and molecular studies before chemotherapy is very important.
APL; t(11;17); ZBTB16-RARA; PLZF
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is characterized by a reciprocal translocation t(15;17)(q22;q21) leading to the disruption of Promyelocytic leukemia (PML) and Retionic Acid Receptor Alpha (RARA) followed by reciprocal PML–RARA fusion in 90% of the cases. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) has overcome the hurdles of unavailability of abnormal and/or lack of metaphase cells, and detection of cryptic, submicroscopic rearrangements. In the present study, besides diagnostic approach we sought to analyze these cases for identification and characterization of cryptic rearrangements, deletion variants and unknown RARA translocation variants by application of D-FISH and RARA break-apart probe strategy on interphase and metaphase cells in a large series of 200 cases of APL. Forty cases (20%) had atypical PML–RARA and/or RARA variants. D-FISH with PML/RARA probe helped identification of RARA insertion to PML. By application of D-FISH on metaphase cells, we documented that translocation of 15 to 17 leads to 17q deletion which results in loss of reciprocal fusion and/or residual RARA on der(17). Among the complex variants of t(15;17), PML–RARA fusion followed by residual RARA insertion closed to PML–RARA on der(15) was unique and unusual. FISH with break-apart RARA probe on metaphase cells was found to be a very efficient strategy to detect unknown RARA variant translocations like t(11;17)(q23;q21), t(11;17)(q13;q21) and t(2;17)(p21;q21). These findings proved that D-FISH and break-apart probe strategy has potential to detect primary as well as secondary additional aberrations of PML, RARA and other additional loci. The long-term clinical follow-up is essential to evaluate the clinical importance of these findings.
PML-RARA; RARA variant; D-FISH; APL; 17q deletion
The PML–RARA fusion protein is found in approximately 97% of patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). APL can be associated with life-threatening bleeding complications when undiagnosed and not treated expeditiously. The PML–RARA fusion protein arrests maturation of myeloid cells at the promyelocytic stage, leading to the accumulation of neoplastic promyelocytes. Complete remission can be obtained by treatment with all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) in combination with chemotherapy. Diagnosis of APL is based on the detection of t(15;17) by karyotyping, fluorescence in situ hybridization or PCR. These techniques are laborious and demand specialized laboratories. We developed a fast (performed within 4–5 h) and sensitive (detection of at least 10% malignant cells in normal background) flow cytometric immunobead assay for the detection of PML–RARA fusion proteins in cell lysates using a bead-bound anti-RARA capture antibody and a phycoerythrin-conjugated anti-PML detection antibody. Testing of 163 newly diagnosed patients (including 46 APL cases) with the PML–RARA immunobead assay showed full concordance with the PML–RARA PCR results. As the applied antibodies recognize outer domains of the fusion protein, the assay appeared to work independently of the PML gene break point region. Importantly, the assay can be used in parallel with routine immunophenotyping for fast and easy diagnosis of APL.
PML–RARA protein; t(15;17); APL; immunobead; flow cytometry
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is classically characterized by chromosomal translocation (15;17), resulting in the PML-RARA fusion protein leading to disease. Here, we present a case of a 50-year-old man who presented with signs and symptoms of acute leukemia with concern for APL. Therapy was immediately initiated with all-trans retinoic acid. The morphology of his leukemic blasts was consistent with the hypogranular variant of APL. Subsequent FISH and cytogenetic analysis revealed a unique translocation involving five chromosomal regions: 9q34, 17q21, 15q24, 12q13, and 15q26.1. Molecular testing demonstrated PML/RARA fusion transcripts. Treatment with conventional chemotherapy was added and he went into a complete remission. Given his elevated white blood cell count at presentation, intrathecal chemotherapy for central nervous system prophylaxis was also given. The patient remains on maintenance therapy and remains in remission. This is the first such report of a 5-way chromosomal translocation leading to APL. Similar to APL with chromosomal translocations other than classical t(15;17) which result in the typical PML-RARA fusion, our patient responded promptly to an ATRA-containing regimen and remains in complete remission.
Fusion proteins involving the retinoic acid receptor α (RARα) and PML or PLZF nuclear protein are the genetic markers of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). APLs with PML-RARα or PLZF-RARα fusion protein differ only in their response to retinoic acid (RA) treatment: the t(15;17) (PML-RARα-positive) APL blasts are sensitive to RA in vitro, and patients enter disease remission after RA treatment, while those with t(11;17) (PLZF-RARα-positive) APLs do not. Recently it has been shown that complete remission can be achieved upon treatment with arsenic trioxide (As2O3) in PML-RARα-positive APL, even when the patient has relapsed and the disease is RA resistant. This appears to be due to apoptosis induced by As2O3 in the APL blasts by poorly defined mechanisms. Here we report that (i) As2O3 induces apoptosis only in cells expressing the PML-RARα, not the PLZF-RARα, fusion protein; (ii) PML-RARα is partially modified by covalent linkage with a PIC-1/SUMO-1-like protein prior to As2O3 treatment, whereas PLZF-RARα is not; (iii) As2O3 treatment induces a change in the modification pattern of PML-RARα toward highly modified forms; (iv) redistribution of PML nuclear bodies (PML-NBs) upon As2O3 treatment is accompanied by recruitment of PIC-1/SUMO-1 into PML-NBs, probably due to hypermodification of both PML and PML-RARα; (v) As2O3-induced apoptosis is independent of the DNA binding activity located in the RARα portion of the PML-RARα fusion protein; and (vi) the apoptotic process is bcl-2 and caspase 3 independent and is blocked only partially by a global caspase inhibitor. Taken together, these data provide novel insights into the mechanisms involved in As2O3-induced apoptosis in APL and predict that treatment of t(11;17) (PLZF-RARα-positive) APLs with As2O3 will not be successful.
To turn a disease from highly fatal to highly curable is extremely difficult, especially when the disease is a type of cancer. However, we can gain some insight into how this can be done by looking back over the 50-year history of taming acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL). APL is the M3 type of acute myeloid leukaemia characterized by an accumulation of abnormal promyelocytes in bone marrow, a severe bleeding tendency and the presence of the chromosomal translocation t(15;17) or variants. APL was considered the most fatal type of acute leukaemia five decades ago and the treatment of APL was a nightmare for physicians. Great efforts have been made by scientists worldwide to conquer this disease. The first use of chemotherapy (CT) was unsuccessful due to lack of supportive care and cytotoxic-agent-related exacerbated coagulopathy. The first breakthrough came from the use of anthracyclines which improved the complete remission (CR) rate, though the 5-year overall survival could only be attained in a small proportion of patients. A rational and intriguing hypothesis, to induce differentiation of APL cells rather than killing them, was raised in the 1970s. Laudably, the use of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) in treating APL resulted in terminal differentiation of APL cells and a 90–95% CR rate of patients, turning differentiation therapy in cancer treatment from hypothesis to practice. The combination of ATRA with CT further improved the 5-year overall survival. When arsenic trioxide (ATO) was used to treat relapsed APL not only the patients but also the ancient drug were revived. ATO exerts dose-dependent dual effects on APL cells: at low concentration, ATO induces partial differentiation, while at relatively high concentration, it triggers apoptosis. Of note, both ATRA and ATO trigger catabolism of the PML–RARα fusion protein which is the key player in APL leukaemogenesis generated from t(15;17), targeting the RARα (retinoic acid receptor α) or promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) moieties, respectively. Hence, in treating APL both ATRA and ATO represent paradigms for molecularly targeted therapy. At molecular level, ATRA and ATO synergistically modulate multiple downstream pathways/cascades. Strikingly, a clearance of PML–RARα transcript in an earlier and more thorough manner, and a higher quality remission and survival in newly diagnosed APL are achieved when ATRA is combined with ATO, as compared to either monotherapy, making APL a curable disease. Thus, the story of APL can serve as a model for the development of curative approaches for disease; it suggests that molecularly synergistic targeted therapies are powerful tools in cancer, and dissection of disease pathogenesis or anatomy of the cancer genome is critical in developing molecular target-based therapies.
acute promyelocytic leukaemia; all-trans retinoic acid; differentiation; arsenic trioxide; apoptosis; synergy
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) can be life threatening, necessitating emergency therapy with prompt diagnosis by morphologic findings, immunophenotyping, cytogenetic analysis, or molecular studies. This study aimed to assess the current routine practices in APL and the clinico-pathologic features of APL.
We reviewed the medical records of 48 Korean patients (25 men, 23 women; median age, 51 (20-80) years) diagnosed with APL in 5 university hospitals between March 2007 and February 2012.
The WBC count at diagnosis and platelet count varied from 0.4 to 81.0 (median 2.0)×109/L and 2.7 to 124.0 (median 54.5)×109/L, respectively. The median values for prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time were 14.7 (11.3-44.1) s and 29 (24-62) s, respectively. All but 2 patients (96%) showed a fibrin/fibrinogen degradation product value of >20 µg/mL. The D-dimer median value was 5,000 (686-55,630) ng/mL. The t(15;17)(q22;q12 and PML-RARA fusion was found in all patients by chromosome analysis and/or multiplex reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), with turnaround times of 8 (2-19) d and 7 (2-13) d, respectively. All patients received induction chemotherapy: all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) alone (N=11, 26%), ATRA+idarubicin (N=25, 58%), ATRA+cytarabine (N=3, 7%), ATRA+idarubicin+cytarabine (N=4, 9%).
Since APL is a medical emergency and an accurate diagnosis is a prerequisite for prompt treatment, laboratory support to implement faster diagnostic tools to confirm the presence of PML-RARA is required.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia; PML-RARA; Immunophenotyping; Cytogenetic analysis; All-trans retinoic acid
Recent advances in cancer biology have revealed that many malignancies possess a hierarchal system, and leukemic stem cells (LSC) or leukemia-initiating cells (LIC) appear to be obligatory for disease progression. Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia characterized by the formation of a PML-RARα fusion protein, leads to the accumulation of abnormal promyelocytes. In order to understand the precise mechanisms involved in human APL leukemogenesis, we established a humanized in vivo APL model involving retroviral transduction of PML-RARA into CD34+ hematopoietic cells from human cord blood and transplantation of these cells into immunodeficient mice. The leukemia well recapitulated human APL, consisting of leukemic cells with abundant azurophilic abnormal granules in the cytoplasm, which expressed CD13, CD33 and CD117, but not HLA-DR and CD34, were clustered in the same category as human APL samples in the gene expression analysis, and demonstrated sensitivity to ATRA. As seen in human APL, the induced APL cells showed a low transplantation efficiency in the secondary recipients, which was also exhibited in the transplantations that were carried out using the sorted CD34− fraction. In order to analyze the mechanisms underlying APL initiation and development, fractionated human cord blood was transduced with PML-RARA. Common myeloid progenitors (CMP) from CD34+/CD38+ cells developed APL. These findings demonstrate that CMP are a target fraction for PML-RARA in APL, whereas the resultant CD34− APL cells may share the ability to maintain the tumor.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is associated with chromosomal translocations, invariably involving the retinoic acid receptor α (RARα) gene fused to one of several distinct loci, including the PML or PLZF genes, involved in t(15;17) or t(11;17), respectively. Patients with t(15;17) APL respond well to retinoic acid (RA) and other treatments, whereas those with t(11;17) APL do not. The PML-RARα and PLZF-RARα fusion oncoproteins function as aberrant transcriptional repressors, in part by recruiting nuclear receptor-transcriptional corepressors and histone deacetylases (HDACs). Transgenic mice harboring the RARα fusion genes develop forms of leukemia that faithfully recapitulate both the clinical features and the response to RA observed in humans with the corresponding translocations. Here, we investigated the effects of HDAC inhibitors (HDACIs) in vitro and in these animal models. In cells from PLZF-RARα/RARα-PLZF transgenic mice and cells harboring t(15;17), HDACIs induced apoptosis and dramatic growth inhibition, effects that could be potentiated by RA. HDACIs also increased RA-induced differentiation. HDACIs, but not RA, induced accumulation of acetylated histones. Using microarray analysis, we identified genes induced by RA, HDACIs, or both together. In combination with RA, all HDACIs tested overcame the transcriptional repression exerted by the RARα fusion oncoproteins. In vivo, HDACIs induced accumulation of acetylated histones in target organs. Strikingly, this combination of agents induced leukemia remission and prolonged survival, without apparent toxic side effects.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) subtype with distinctive cell morphology, molecular presentation, clinical course, and treatment. About 90% of APL patients present with hemorrhagic complications due to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). When APL is suspected, all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) treatment is recommended even before confirmation by molecular tests. Specific criteria for differentiating unconfirmed APL from other AML subtypes with DIC are currently lacking. We aimed to achieve the early diagnosis of APL from other AML types with DIC by restricting the DIC criteria.
We retrospectively analyzed 29 patients newly diagnosed with AML accompanied by DIC from January 2005 to January 2013.
Fibrin degradation products (FDP) (77.7 µg/mL vs. 23.7 µg/mL, p=0.026), D-dimer (7,376.2 ng/mL vs. 1,315.2 ng/mL, p=0.018), and TIBC (264.4 µg/dL vs. 206.8 µg/dL, P=0.046) were higher, while fibrinogen (133.8 mg/dL vs. 373.2 mg/dL, p<0.001), WBC (14.988×109/L vs. 70.755×109/L, p=0.015), and ESR (7.1 mm/h vs. 50.0 mm/h, p <0.001) were lower in APL patients than in the patients with other AML subtypes. FDP ≥27 µg/mL, D-dimer ≥2,071 ng/mL, and fibrinogen ≤279 mg/dL were our threshold values. These markers may be characteristic to APL and helpful in presumptive diagnosis.
APL may be differentiated from other AML subtypes by core markers of DIC (FDP, D-dimer, and fibrinogen). We suggest that clinicians set new diagnostic thresholds by restricting the DIC criteria. These findings support the early initiation of ATRA, prior to confirmation by PML-RARA molecular testing.
Acute myeloid leukemia; Acute promyelocytic leukemia; Disseminated intravascular coagulation
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) characterized by a PML-RARA fusion due to a translocation t(15;17). Its sensitivity to treatment with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), which causes differentiation of the abnormal promyelocytes, combined with anthracycline based chemotherapy makes it the best curable subtype of acute myeloid leukemia. A rapid and accurate diagnosis is needed in the first place to prevent (more) bleeding problems. Here we present a patient with a leukemia with an APL-like morphology but no detectable PML-RARA fusion, as demonstrated by RT-PCR and cytogenetic analysis.
Unexpectedly, karyotyping revealed numerous double minutes (dmins). Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with DNA probes specific for the MYC-region showed the presence of multiple MYC amplicons. SNP-array analysis uncovered amplification of the 8q24.13-q24.21 region, including the MYC-gene, flanked by deletions in 8q24.13 and 8q24.21-q24.22, and a homozygous deletion in 9p21.3, flanked by heterozygous deletions in the same chromosome region.
The diagnosis was revised to AML, not otherwise specified (AML, NOS) and therefore therapy with ATRA was discontinued.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia; MYC; Double minutes; Cytogenetics; SNP-array
Synthetic retinoids activate RARA- or PML/RARA-dependent transcription, but fail to degrade RARA or PML/RARA protein, which is insufficient for eradication of acute promyelocytic leukemia.
In PML/RARA-driven acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), retinoic acid (RA) induces leukemia cell differentiation and transiently clears the disease. Molecularly, RA activates PML/RARA-dependent transcription and also initiates its proteasome-mediated degradation. In contrast, arsenic, the other potent anti-APL therapy, only induces PML/RARA degradation by specifically targeting its PML moiety. The respective contributions of RA-triggered transcriptional activation and proteolysis to clinical response remain disputed. Here, we identify synthetic retinoids that potently activate RARA- or PML/RARA-dependent transcription, but fail to down-regulate RARA or PML/RARA protein levels. Similar to RA, these uncoupled retinoids elicit terminal differentiation, but unexpectedly fail to impair leukemia-initiating activity of PML/RARA-transformed cells ex vivo or in vivo. Accordingly, the survival benefit conferred by uncoupled retinoids in APL mice is dramatically lower than the one provided by RA. Differentiated APL blasts sorted from uncoupled retinoid–treated mice retain PML/RARA expression and reinitiate APL in secondary transplants. Thus, differentiation is insufficient for APL eradication, whereas PML/RARA loss is essential. These observations unify the modes of action of RA and arsenic and shed light on the potency of their combination in mice or patients.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a cytogenetically distinct subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), characterized by the t(15;17)-associated PML-RARA fusion, has been successfully treated with therapy utilizing all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) to differentiate leukemic blasts. However, among patients with non- APL AML, ATRA-based treatment has not been effective. Here we show that, through epigenetic reprogramming, inhibitors of lysine- specific demethylase 1 (LSD1, also called KDM1A), including tranylcypromine (TCP), unlocked the ATRA-driven therapeutic response in non-APL AML. LSD1 inhibition did not lead to a large-scale increase in histone 3 Lys4 dimethylation (H3K4me2) across the genome, but it did increase H3K4me2 and expression of myeloid-differentiation–associated genes. Notably, treatment with ATRA plus TCP markedly diminished the engraftment of primary human AML cells in vivo in nonobese diabetic (NOD)- severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice, suggesting that ATRA in combination with TCP may target leukemia-initiating cells. Furthermore, initiation of ATRA plus TCP treatment 15 d after engraftment of human AML cells in NOD-SCID γ (with interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptor γ chain deficiency) mice also revealed the ATRA plus TCP drug combination to have a potent anti-leukemic effect that was superior to treatment with either drug alone. These data identify LSD1 as a therapeutic target and strongly suggest that it may contribute to AML pathogenesis by inhibiting the normal pro-differentiative function of ATRA, paving the way for new combinatorial therapies for AML.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). It is characterized by the t(15;17)(q22;q11.2) chromosomal translocation that creates the promyelocytic leukemia–retinoic acid receptor α (PML-RARA) fusion oncogene. Although this fusion oncogene is known to initiate APL in mice, other cooperating mutations, as yet ill defined, are important for disease pathogenesis. To identify these, we used a mouse model of APL, whereby PML-RARA expressed in myeloid cells leads to a myeloproliferative disease that ultimately evolves into APL. Sequencing of a mouse APL genome revealed 3 somatic, nonsynonymous mutations relevant to APL pathogenesis, of which 1 (Jak1 V657F) was found to be recurrent in other affected mice. This mutation was identical to the JAK1 V658F mutation previously found in human APL and acute lymphoblastic leukemia samples. Further analysis showed that JAK1 V658F cooperated in vivo with PML-RARA, causing a rapidly fatal leukemia in mice. We also discovered a somatic 150-kb deletion involving the lysine (K)-specific demethylase 6A (Kdm6a, also known as Utx) gene, in the mouse APL genome. Similar deletions were observed in 3 out of 14 additional mouse APL samples and 1 out of 150 human AML samples. In conclusion, whole genome sequencing of mouse cancer genomes can provide an unbiased and comprehensive approach for discovering functionally relevant mutations that are also present in human leukemias.
Background: The secondary genetic changes other than the promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor (PML-RARA) fusion gene may contribute to the acute promyelocytic leukemogenesis. Chromosomal alterations and mutation of FLT3 (FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3) tyrosine kinase receptor are the frequent genetic alterations in acute myeloid leukemia. However, the prognostic significance of FLT3 mutations in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is not firmly established. Methods: In this study, the chromosomal abnormalities were analyzed by bone marrow cytogenetic in 45 APL patients and FLT3 internal tandem duplications (ITD) screening by fragment length analysis and FLT3 D835 mutation by melting curve analysis were screened in 23 APL samples. Results: Cytogenetic study showed 14.3% trisomy 8 and 17.1% chromosomal abnormalities other than t(15;17). About 13% of the patients had FLT3 ITD, and 26% had D835 point mutation. FLT3 ITD mutation was associated with higher white blood cell count at presentation and poor prognosis. Conclusion: The PML-RARA translocation alone may not be sufficient to induce leukemia. Therefore, we assume that FLT3 mutations and the other genetic and chromosomal alterations may cooperate with PML-RARA in the development of APL disease.
Chromosome aberrations; FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3; Acute promyelocytic leukemia
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is characterized by the t(15;17) translocation
that generates the fusion protein promyelocytic leukemia–retinoic acid
receptor α (PML-RARA) in nearly all cases. Multiple prior mouse models of
APL constitutively express PML-RARA from a variety of
non-Pml loci. Typically, all animals develop a myeloproliferative
disease, followed by leukemia in a subset of animals after a long latent period. In
contrast, human APL is not associated with an antecedent stage of myeloproliferation.
To address this discrepancy, we have generated a system whereby
PML-RARA expression is somatically acquired from the mouse
Pml locus in the context of Pml
haploinsufficiency. We found that physiologic PML-RARA expression
was sufficient to direct a hematopoietic progenitor self-renewal program in vitro and
in vivo. However, this expansion was not associated with evidence of
myeloproliferation, more accurately reflecting the clinical presentation of human
APL. Thus, at physiologic doses, PML-RARA primarily acts to increase
hematopoietic progenitor self-renewal, expanding a population of cells that are
susceptible to acquiring secondary mutations that cause progression to leukemia. This
mouse model provides a platform for more accurately dissecting the early events in
Because PML-RARA-induced acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a morphologically differentiated leukemia, many groups have speculated about whether its leukemic cell of origin is a committed myeloid precursor (e.g. a promyelocyte) versus an hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell (HSPC). We originally targeted PML-RARA expression with CTSG regulatory elements, based on the early observation that this gene was maximally expressed in cells with promyelocyte morphology. Here, we show that both Ctsg, and PML-RARA targeted to the Ctsg locus (in Ctsg-PML-RARA mice), are expressed in the purified KLS cells of these mice (KLS = Kit+Lin−Sca+, which are highly enriched for HSPCs), and this expression results in biological effects in multi-lineage competitive repopulation assays. Further, we demonstrate the transcriptional consequences of PML-RARA expression in Ctsg-PML-RARA mice in early myeloid development in other myeloid progenitor compartments [common myeloid progenitors (CMPs) and granulocyte/monocyte progenitors (GMPs)], which have a distinct gene expression signature compared to wild-type (WT) mice. Although PML-RARA is indeed expressed at high levels in the promyelocytes of Ctsg-PML-RARA mice and alters the transcriptional signature of these cells, it does not induce their self-renewal. In sum, these results demonstrate that in the Ctsg-PML-RARA mouse model of APL, PML-RARA is expressed in and affects the function of multipotent progenitor cells. Finally, since PML/Pml is normally expressed in the HSPCs of both humans and mice, and since some human APL samples contain TCR rearrangements and express T lineage genes, we suggest that the very early hematopoietic expression of PML-RARA in this mouse model may closely mimic the physiologic expression pattern of PML-RARA in human APL patients.
A key oncogenic force in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is the ability of the promyelocytic leukemia–retinoic acid receptor α (PML-RARA) oncoprotein to recruit transcriptional repressors and DNA methyltransferases at retinoic acid–responsive elements. Pharmacological doses of retinoic acid relieve transcriptional repression inducing terminal differentiation/apoptosis of the leukemic blasts. APL blasts often harbor additional recurrent chromosomal abnormalities, and significantly, APL prevalence is increased in Latino populations. These observations suggest that multiple genetic and environmental/dietary factors are likely implicated in APL. We tested whether dietary or targeted chemopreventive strategies relieving PML-RARA transcriptional repression would be effective in a transgenic mouse model. Surprisingly, we found that 1) treatment with a demethylating agent, 5-azacytidine, results in a striking acceleration of APL; 2) a high fat, low folate/choline–containing diet resulted in a substantial but nonsignificant APL acceleration; and 3) all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is ineffective in preventing leukemia and results in ATRA-resistant APL. Our findings have important clinical implications because ATRA is a drug of choice for APL treatment and indicate that global demethylation, whether through dietary manipulations or through the use of a pharmacologic agent such as 5-azacytidine, may have unintended and detrimental consequences in chemopreventive regimens.
APL; 5-azacytidine; ATRA; Western diet; chemoprevention
Pandolfi et al. provide an in-depth discussion on the synergism between all-trans-retinoic acid and arsenic trioxide treatment and their mechanisms of action on acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a hematological malignancy driven by a chimeric oncoprotein containing the C terminus of the retinoic acid receptor-a (RARa) fused to an N-terminal partner, most commonly promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML). Mechanistically, PML-RARa acts as a transcriptional repressor of RARa and non-RARa target genes and antagonizes the formation and function of PML nuclear bodies that regulate numerous signaling pathways. The empirical discoveries that PML-RARa–associated APL is sensitive to both all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) and arsenic trioxide (ATO), and the subsequent understanding of the mechanisms of action of these drugs, have led to efforts to understand the contribution of molecular events to APL cell differentiation, leukemia-initiating cell (LIC) clearance, and disease eradication in vitro and in vivo. Critically, the mechanistic insights gleaned from these studies have resulted not only in a better understanding of APL itself, but also carry valuable lessons for other malignancies.
In acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), hematopoietic differentiation is blocked and immature blasts accumulate in the bone marrow and blood. APL is associated with chromosomal aberrations, including t(15;17) and t(11;17). For these two translocations, the retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARα) is fused to the promyelocytic leukemia (PML) gene or the promyelocytic zinc finger (PLZF) gene, respectively. Both fusion proteins lead to the formation of a high-molecular-weight complex. High-molecular-weight complexes are caused by the “coiled-coil” domain of PML or the BTB/POZ domain of PLZF. PML/RARα without the “coiled-coil” fails to block differentiation and mediates an all-trans retinoic acid-response. Similarly, mutations in the BTB/POZ domain disrupt the high-molecular-weight complex, abolishing the leukemic potential of PLZF/RARα. Specific interfering polypeptides were used to target the oligomerization domain of PML/RARα or PLZF/RARα. PML/RARα and PLZF/RARα were analyzed for the ability to form high-molecular-weight complexes, the protein stability and the potential to induce a leukemic phenotype in the presence of the interfering peptides. Expression of these interfering peptides resulted in a reduced replating efficiency and overcame the differentiation block induced by PML/RARα and PLZF/RARα in murine hematopoietic stem cells. This expression also destabilized the PLZF/RARα-induced high-molecular-weight complex formation and caused the degradation of the fusion protein. Targeting fusion proteins through interfering peptides is a promising approach to further elucidate the biology of leukemia.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is characterized by the t(15;17)(q22;q21), which results in the fusion of the promyelocytic leukemia (PML) gene at 15q22 with the retinoic acid α-receptor (RARA) gene at 17q21. The current study presents the case of a 54-year-old female with APL carrying the atypical PML/RARA fusion signal due to a novel complex variant translocation t(15;16;17)(q22;q24;q21), as well as the classical PML/RARA fusion signal. Subsequent array comparative genomic hybridization revealed somatic, cryptic deletions on 3p25.3, 8q23.1 and 12p13.2-p13.1, and a duplication on 8q11.2; however, no genetic material loss or gain was observed in the breakpoint regions of chromosomes 15, 16 or 17. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of the coexistence of two abnormal clones, one classical and one variant, presenting simultaneously in addition to cryptic chromosome segmental imbalances in an adult APL patient.
promyelocytic leukemia/retinoic acid α-receptor; array comparative genomic hybridization; variant translocation; acute promyelocytic leukemia; fluorescence in situ hybridization
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is epitomized by the chromosomal translocation t(15;17) and the resulting oncogenic fusion protein PML-RARα. Although acting primarily as a transcriptional repressor, PML-RARα can also exert functions of transcriptional co-activation. Here, we find that PML-RARα stimulates transcription driven by HIF factors, which are critical regulators of adaptive responses to hypoxia and stem cell maintenance. Consistently, HIF-related gene signatures are upregulated in leukemic promyelocytes from APL patients compared to normal promyelocytes. Through in vitro and in vivo studies, we find that PML-RARα exploits a number of HIF-1α-regulated pro-leukemogenic functions that include cell migration, bone marrow (BM) neo-angiogenesis and self-renewal of APL blasts. Furthermore, HIF-1α levels increase upon treatment of APL cells with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA). As a consequence, inhibiting HIF-1α in APL mouse models delays leukemia progression and exquisitely synergizes with ATRA to eliminate leukemia-initiating cells (LICs).
acute promyelocytic leukemia; hypoxia-inducible transcription factor; leukemia-initiating cells; mouse models; PML-RARα
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) results from a chromosomal translocation that gives rise to the leukemogenic fusion protein PML-RARα (promyelocytic leukemia–retinoic acid α receptor). Differentiation of leukemic cells and complete remission of APL are achieved by treatment of patients with pharmacological doses of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), making APL a model disease for differentiation therapy. However, because patients are resistant to further treatment with ATRA on relapse, it is necessary to develop alternative treatment strategies to specifically target APL. We therefore sought to develop a treatment strategy based on lentiviral vector-mediated delivery of small interfering RNA (siRNA) that specifically targets the breakpoint region of PML-RARα. Unlike treatment with ATRA, which resulted in differentiation of leukemic NB4 cells, delivery of siRNA targeting PML-RARα into NB4 cells resulted in both differentiation and apoptosis, consistent with the specific knockdown of PML-RARα. Intraperitoneal injection of NB4 cells transduced with lentiviral vectors delivering PML-RARα-specific siRNA but not control siRNA prevented development of disease in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficient (NOD/SCID) mice. Taken together, these results indicate that development of PML-RARα-specific siRNA may represent a promising treatment strategy for ATRA-resistant APL.
Ward and colleagues use lentiviral vector-mediated small interfering RNA to knock down expression of the leukemogenic fusion protein, promyelocytic leukemia–retinoic acid α receptor (PML-RARα). They demonstrate that this approach prevents the development of disease in a mouse model of acute promyelocytic leukemia.
A nonrandom chromosomal translocation breakpoint, t(15;17)(q22;q21), is found in almost all patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Most of these breakpoints occur within the second intron of the retinoic acid receptor-alpha (RARA) gene. We screened a cDNA library of APL and have identified and sequenced a cDNA transcribed from the t(15;17) translocation breakpoint. The 5' end of cDNA p1715 consists of 503 bp of the RARA exon II sequence. A 1.76-kb cDNA without homology to any known gene available in GenBank was found truncated downstream. This cDNA sequence was assigned to chromosome 15 by dot blot hybridization of the flow cytometry-sorted chromosomes. We designate this fusion cDNA RARA/myl, which is different from myl/RARA reported by de The et al. (H. de The, C. Chomienne, M. Lanotte, L. Degos, and A. Dejean, Nature (London) 347:558-561, 1990). This result demonstrates that the two different types of hybrid mRNA can be transcribed from this breakpoint. We screened a non-APL cDNA library and identified a 2.8-kb myl cDNA. This cDNA is able to encode a polypeptide with a molecular weight of 78,450. Alternative splicing of the myl gene which resulted in myl proteins with different C terminals was found. Southern blot analysis of the genomic DNA isolated from 17 APL patients by using the myl DNA probe demonstrated that the myl gene in 12 samples was rearranged. Northern (RNA) blot analysis of RARA gene expression in two APL RNA samples showed abnormal mRNA species of 4.2 and 3.2 kb in one patient and of 4.8 and 3.8 kb in another patient; these were in addition to the normal mRNA species of 3.7 and 2.7-kb. The myl DNA probe detected a 2.6-kb abnormal mRNA in addition to the normal mRNA species of 3.2, 4.2, and 5.5 kb. Using the polymerase chain reaction, we demonstrated that both RARA/myl and myl/RARA were coexpressed in samples from three different APL patients. From this study, we conclude that the t(15;17) translocation breakpoint results in the transcription of two different fusion transcripts which are expected to be translated into fusion proteins.
PML–RARA was proposed to initiate acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) through PML–RARA homodimer–triggered repression. Here, we examined the nature of the PML–RARA protein complex and of its DNA targets in APL cells. Using a selection/amplification approach, we demonstrate that PML–RARA targets consist of two AGGTCA elements in an astonishing variety of orientations and spacings, pointing to highly relaxed structural constrains for DNA binding and identifying a major gain of function of this oncogene. PML–RARA-specific response elements were identified, which all conveyed a major transcriptional response to RA only in APL cells. In these cells, we demonstrate that PML–RARA oligomers are complexed to RXR. Directly probing PML–RARA function in APL cells, we found that the differentiation enhancer cyclic AMP (cAMP) boosted transcriptional activation by RA. cAMP also reversed the normal silencing (subordination) of the transactivating function of RXR when bound to RARA or PML–RARA, demonstrating that the alternate rexinoid/cAMP-triggered APL differentiation pathway also activates PML–RARA targets. Finally, cAMP restored both RA-triggered differentiation and PML–RARA transcriptional activation in mutant RA-resistant APL cells. Collectively, our findings directly demonstrate that APL cell differentiation parallels transcriptional activation through PML–RARA-RXR oligomers and that those are functionally targeted by cAMP, identifying this agent as another oncogene-targeted therapy.
therapy; leukemia; selex; transcription; oncogene