JAK2V617F allele has recently been identified in patients with polycythemia vera (PV), essential thrombocytosis (ET), and myelofibrosis with myeloid metaplasia (MF). Subsequent analysis has shown that constitutive activation of the JAK-STAT signal transduction pathway is an important pathogenetic event in these patients, and that enzymatic inhibition of JAK2V617F may be of therapeutic benefit in this context. However, a significant proportion of patients with ET or MF are
JAK2V617F-negative. We hypothesized that activation of the JAK-STAT pathway might also occur as a consequence of activating mutations in certain hematopoietic-specific cytokine receptors, including the erythropoietin receptor (EPOR), the thrombopoietin receptor (MPL), or the granulocyte-colony stimulating factor receptor (GCSFR).
Methods and Findings
DNA sequence analysis of the exons encoding the transmembrane and juxtamembrane domains of EPOR, MPL, and GCSFR, and comparison with germline DNA derived from buccal swabs, identified a somatic activating mutation in the transmembrane domain of MPL (W515L) in 9% (4/45) of
JAKV617F-negative MF. Expression of MPLW515L in 32D, UT7, or Ba/F3 cells conferred cytokine-independent growth and thrombopoietin hypersensitivity, and resulted in constitutive phosphorylation of JAK2, STAT3, STAT5, AKT, and ERK. Furthermore, a small molecule JAK kinase inhibitor inhibited MPLW515L-mediated proliferation and JAK-STAT signaling in vitro. In a murine bone marrow transplant assay, expression of MPLW515L, but not wild-type MPL, resulted in a fully penetrant myeloproliferative disorder characterized by marked thrombocytosis (Plt count 1.9–4.0 × 10
12/L), marked splenomegaly due to extramedullary hematopoiesis, and increased reticulin fibrosis.
Activation of JAK-STAT signaling via MPLW515L is an important pathogenetic event in patients with
JAK2V617F-negative MF. The bone marrow transplant model of MPLW515L-mediated myeloproliferative disorders (MPD) exhibits certain features of human MF, including extramedullary hematopoiesis, splenomegaly, and megakaryocytic proliferation. Further analysis of positive and negative regulators of the JAK-STAT pathway is warranted in
Myelofibrosis with myeloid metaplasia (MF) is one of a group of chronic blood disorders, known as chronic myeloproliferative disorders. These disorders sometimes turn into acute leukemia. The main abnormality in myelofibrosis is for the bone marrow to become filled with fibrous (scar) tissue (hence the name myelofibrosis), which stops it from producing normal blood cells efficiently. In addition, the white blood cells that remain are abnormal (that is, metaplastic). The clinical effect of these abnormalities are that patients are anemic (they have low numbers of red cells), are more likely to get infections because of the abnormal white cells which cannot fight infections normally, and may bleed more easily because of a lack of the platelets that help the blood to clot. Scientists who study this disorder believe that the disease starts from just one abnormal cell, which divides to replace all the other cells—that is, all the abnormal cells are part of one clone.
Why Was This Study Done?
In two similar diseases, polycythemia vera (in which the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells) and essential thrombocytosis (in which the bone marrow produces too many platelets), and in some patients with MF, scientists have found genetic changes which seem to trigger these diseases. However, there are some patients with MF in which no abnormal gene has been found. The scientists here wanted to look at other genes to see if they could find any changes that might trigger MF.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They decoded the DNA sequence of three genes that are known to be involved in how blood cells develop for 45 patients with MF. They looked at DNA from white blood cells, and also from normal cheek cells for comparison. They found that in four of the 45 patients the DNA in the bone marrow, but not the cheek, carried a mutation in a gene for the thrombopoietin receptor (also called
MPL). This gene is necessary for the cells that make platelets to grow correctly. The mutation was not present in any samples from patients with diseases related to MF, nor in 270 normal samples. The mutation that was identified was at position 515 in the
MPL gene sequence, hence the name MPLW515L—the W and the L are the shorthand way of indicating exactly which change occurred. The change meant that the gene became abnormally active. The researchers tested the effect of the abnormal gene by putting it into cells grown in culture in the laboratory; they found that it made the cells grow more than was normal. In addition, when cells with the abnormal gene were put into mice, the mice developed a blood disorder similar to that seen in humans with MF.
What Do These Findings Mean?
It seems likely that the genetic change that has been identified here is responsible for the MF that develops in some patients. The
MPL gene is known to be part of a pathway of genes that control how certain blood cells develop. However, it is not yet clear exactly how the genetic change found here causes the blood cells to grow abnormally, or how it causes the other clinical effects of MF. Further work will also need to be done to see if it is possible to develop drugs that can act on this gene mutation, or on the other genes that it affects so as to return the cells to normal.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• MedlinePlus, a Web site of the US National Library of Health, has pages of information on
myelofibrosis and related diseases
• The National Cancer Institute, which funds research into many cancers, has information for patients on
myelofibrosis, including information on clinical trials
MPD Foundation has information for patients with myelofibrosis and related diseases
Activation of JAK-STAT signaling via a mutation - MPLW515L- in the thrombopoietin receptor seems to have a role in the pathogenesis of some patients with myelofibrosis.