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Microenvironment a main driver of aggressive multi-lineage leukemia disease type
Date:6/9/2008

cells into two strains of mice. Both strains were bred for severe immunodeficiency (NS), which allowed human cells to be grafted into the mice. One of the strains also contained three human cytokine proteins that control blood cell formation and promote myeloid cell development (NS-SGM3).

NS-SGM3 mice receiving the MLL-AF9-programmed cells all developed AML (acute myeloid leukemia) in five to seven weeks, even when most of the MLL-AF9-expressing cells were lymphoid. The three cytokines in the mice were able to redirect the leukemia stem cells from lymphoid to myeloid. However, in the NS strain of mice, the same cells led to the development of a mix of ALL, AML and acute bi-phenotypic leukemia (ABL). In ABL, at least 20 percent of the cells have indications of both myeloid and lymphoid disease. These findings further demonstrated the importance of microenvironment in determining the lineage outcome of disease, the researchers said.

Relatively little is known about the important molecular events that are downstream of the MLL fusion gene. Previous research indicates that Rac1 a protein that helps regulate cell growth has increased activity in mice with AML expressing MLL-AF9. To test the importance of Rac1's downstream regulatory pathway in human AML expressing MLL-AF9, the research team experimented with a small molecule that inhibits Rac1's activity. They also tested genetic manipulation of Rac. Both interventions prevented MLL-AF9 cell growth and induced programmed cell death (apoptosis), suggesting Rac as a possible therapeutic target in AML involving rearrangement of the MLL gene, according to Dr. Mulloy and his fellow researchers.

"The exquisite sensitivity of the leukemia cells to Rac inhibition indicates that the MLL-AF9-expressing cells have become addicted to this signal, and this pathway is therefore a very good target for future drug development" said Junping Wei, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at Cincinnati Children's and lead auth
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Contact: Nick Miller
nicholas.miller@cchmc.org
513-803-6035
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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