Hypomethylating agents are widely used in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes and unfit patients with acute myeloid leukemia. However, it is not well understood why only some patients respond to hypomethylating agents. We found previously that the effect of decitabine on hematopoietic stem cell viability differed between Mll5 wild-type and null cells. We, therefore, investigated the role of MLL5 expression levels on outcome of acute myeloid leukemia patients who were treated with decitabine. MLL5 above the median expression level predicted longer overall survival independent of DNMT3A mutation status in bivariate analysis (median overall survival for high vs. low MLL5 expression 292 vs. 167 days; P=0.026). In patients who received three or more courses decitabine, high MLL5 expression and wild-type DNMT3A independently predicted improved overall survival (median overall survival for high vs. low MLL5 expression 468 vs. 243 days; P=0.012). In transformed murine cells, loss of Mll5 was associated with resistance to low-dose decitabine, less global DNA methylation in promoter regions, and reduced DNA demethylation upon decitabine treatment. Together, these data support our clinical observation of improved outcome in decitabine-treated patients who express MLL5 at high levels, and suggest a mechanistic role of MLL5 in the regulation of DNA methylation.
Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is characterized by microthrombocytopenia, immunodeficiency, autoimmunity, and susceptibility to malignancies. In our hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy (GT) trial using a ?-retroviral vector, 9 of 10 patients showed sustained engraftment and correction of WAS protein (WASP) expression in lymphoid and myeloid cells and platelets. GT resulted in partial or complete resolution of immunodeficiency, autoimmunity, and bleeding diathesis. Analysis of retroviral insertion sites revealed >140,000 unambiguous integration sites and a polyclonal pattern of hematopoiesis in all patients early after GT. Seven patients developed acute leukemia [one acute myeloid leukemia (AML), four T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), and two primary T-ALL with secondary AML associated with a dominant clone with vector integration at the LMO2 (six T-ALL), MDS1 (two AML), or MN1 (one AML) locus]. Cytogenetic analysis revealed additional genetic alterations such as chromosomal translocations. This study shows that hematopoietic stem cell GT for WAS is feasible and effective, but the use of ?-retroviral vectors is associated with a substantial risk of leukemogenesis.
Site specific recombinases are frequently used as gene switches in transgenic animals where recombination is induced by drug treatment or by tissue specific recombinase expression. Alternatively, lentiviral gene transfer can be utilized for the genetic modification of a wide variety of cell types, albeit systems for tight control of transcriptional activity are scarce. Here, we combined lentiviral gene transfer and the development of a tightly drug-controlled FLP recombinase for the construction of "All-in-One" inducible gene expression systems. Tight control of FLP activity was achieved through N-terminal fusion with a FKBP12-derived conditional destruction domain and a C-terminal estrogen receptor binding domain making recombination dependent on the presence of Shield-1 and 4-hydroxytamoxifen. Exploiting the capacity of FLP to mediate excision and inversion, "All-in-One" lentiviral gene switch vector systems were generated where drug-induced recombination resulted in abrogation of FLP expression and subsequent overexpression or knockdown of the prototypical tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homolog PTEN. "All-in-One" vectors proved their functionality in a variety of hematopoietic cell lines, and primary murine bone marrow cells. Our new vector system thus combines the ease of lentiviral gene transfer and the power of site specific recombinases for analysis of gene function.
Extensive molecular profiling of leukemias and preleukemic diseases has revealed that distinct clinical entities, like acute myeloid (AML) and T-lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), share similar pathogenetic mutations. It is not well understood how the cell of origin, accompanying mutations, extracellular signals or structural differences in a mutated gene determine the phenotypic identity of leukemias. We dissected the functional aspects of different protein regions of the MN1 oncogene and their effect on the leukemic phenotype, building on the ability of MN1 to induce leukemia without accompanying mutations. We found that the most C-terminal region of MN1 was required to block myeloid differentiation at an early stage, and deletion of an extended C-terminal region resulted in loss of myeloid identity and cell differentiation along the T-cell lineage in vivo. Megakaryocytic/erythroid lineage differentiation was blocked by the N-terminal region. In addition, the N-terminus was required for proliferation and leukemogenesis in vitro and in vivo through upregulation of HoxA9, HoxA10 and Meis2. Our results provide evidence that a single oncogene can modulate cellular identity of leukemic cells based on its active gene regions. It is therefore likely that different mutations in the same oncogene may impact cell fate decisions and phenotypic appearance of malignant diseases.
Mutations in the metabolic enzymes isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) and 2 (IDH2) are frequently found in glioma, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), melanoma, thyroid cancer, and chondrosarcoma patients. Mutant IDH produces 2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG), which induces histone- and DNA-hypermethylation through inhibition of epigenetic regulators. We investigated the role of mutant IDH1 using the mouse transplantation assay. Mutant IDH1 alone did not transform hematopoietic cells during 5 months of observation. However, mutant IDH1 greatly accelerated onset of myeloproliferative disease-like myeloid leukemia in mice in cooperation with HoxA9 with a mean latency of 83 days compared with cells expressing HoxA9 and wild-type IDH1 or a control vector (167 and 210 days, respectively, P = .001). Mutant IDH1 accelerated cell-cycle transition through repression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors Cdkn2a and Cdkn2b, and activated mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. By computational screening, we identified an inhibitor of mutant IDH1, which inhibited mutant IDH1 cells and lowered 2HG levels in vitro, and efficiently blocked colony formation of AML cells from IDH1-mutated patients but not of normal CD34(+) bone marrow cells. These data demonstrate that mutant IDH1 has oncogenic activity in vivo and suggest that it is a promising therapeutic target in human AML cells.
Gene therapy is a promising therapeutic approach to treat primary immunodeficiencies. Indeed, the clinical trial for the Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome (WAS) that is currently ongoing at the Hannover Medical School (Germany) has recently reported the correction of all affected cell lineages of the hematopoietic system in the first treated patients. However, an extensive study of the clonal inventory of those patients reveals that LMO2, CCND2 and MDS1/EVI1 were preferentially prevalent. Moreover, a first leukemia case was observed in this study, thus reinforcing the need of developing safer vectors for gene transfer into HSC in general. Here we present a novel self-inactivating (SIN) vector for the gene therapy of WAS that combines improved safety features. We used the elongation factor 1 alpha (EFS) promoter, which has been extensively evaluated in terms of safety profile, to drive a codon-optimized human WASP cDNA. To test vector performance in a more clinically relevant setting, we transduced murine HSPC as well as human CD34+ cells and also analyzed vector efficacy in their differentiated myeloid progeny. Our results show that our novel vector generates comparable WAS protein levels and is as effective as the clinically used LTR-driven vector. Therefore, the described SIN vectors appear to be good candidates for potential use in a safer new gene therapy protocol for WAS, with decreased risk of insertional mutagenesis.
Previously, we identified a major myeloid-derived proinflammatory subpopulation of human blood dendritic cells which we termed slanDCs (e.g. Schäkel et al. (2006) Immunity 24, 767-777). The slan epitope is an O-linked sugar modification (6-sulfo LacNAc, slan) of P-selectin glycoprotein ligand-1 (PSGL-1). As slanDCs can induce neoantigen-specific CD4+ T cells and tumor-reactive CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, they appear as promising targets for an in vivo delivery of antigens for vaccination. However, tools for delivery of antigens to slanDCs were not available until now. Moreover, it is unknown whether or not antigens delivered via the slan epitope can be taken up, properly processed and presented by slanDCs to T cells.
The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is an X-linked recessive primary immunodeficiency disorder associated with thrombocytopenia, eczema, and autoimmunity. We treated two patients who had this disorder with a transfusion of autologous, genetically modified hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). We found sustained expression of WAS protein expression in HSC, lymphoid and myeloid cells, and platelets after gene therapy. T and B cells, natural killer (NK) cells, and monocytes were functionally corrected. After treatment, the patients clinical condition markedly improved, with resolution of hemorrhagic diathesis, eczema, autoimmunity, and predisposition to severe infection. Comprehensive insertion-site analysis showed vector integration that targeted multiple genes controlling growth and immunologic responses in a persistently polyclonal hematopoiesis. (Funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and others; German Clinical Trials Register number, DRKS00000330.).
Rapamycin is a potent allosteric mTORC1 inhibitor with clinical applications as an anticancer agent. However, only a fraction of cancer patients responds to the drug, and no biomarkers are available to predict tumor sensitivity. Recently, we and others have obtained evidence for potential involvement of tropomyosin-related kinase (TRK) receptor protein tyrosine kinases (TRKA, TRKB, TRKC) in leukemia. In the present study, we tested the therapeutic effect of Rapamycin and its analog RAD001 on altered TRK-induced leukemia in a murine model. Daily treatment with Rapamycin (2 mg/kg) or RAD001 (1 mg/kg) significantly prolonged the survival of treated animals (n?=?40) compared with the placebo group. Consistently, both mTOR and S6 proteins were strongly dephosphorylated in vitro and in vivo after treatment with Rapamycin or RAD001. However, Rapamycin did not completely inhibit mTORC1-dependent phosphorylation of 4E-BP1. With exception of one mouse showing slight reactivation of Akt after treatment, no reactivation of MAPK or Akt pathways was observed in other resistant tumors. Interestingly, leukemic cells isolated from a Rapamycin-resistant mouse were still highly sensitive to Rapamycin in vitro. Our findings suggest that altered TRK signaling may be a good predictor of tumor sensitivity to mTOR inhibition and that pathways other than MAPK and Akt exist that may trigger resistance of leukemic cells to Rapamycin in vivo.
Lymphocytes are a key component of the immune system and their differentiation and function are directly influenced by cancer. We examined peripheral blood lymphocyte (PBL) gene expression as a biomarker of illness and treatment effect using the Affymetrix Human Gene ST1 platform in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) who received combined treatment with IL-2, interferon-?-2a and dendritic cell vaccine. We examined gene expression, cytokine levels in patient serum and lymphocyte subsets as determined by flow cytometry (FCM). Pre-treatment PBLs from patients with mRCC exhibit a gene expression profile and serum cytokine profile consistent with inflammation and proliferation not found in healthy donors (HD). PBL gene expression from patients with mRCC showed increased mRNA of genes involved with T-cell and T(REG)-cell activation pathways, which was also reflected in lymphocyte subset distribution. Overall, PBL gene expression post-treatment (POST) was not significantly different than pre-treatment (PRE). Nevertheless, treatment related changes in gene expression (post-treatment minus pre-treatment) revealed an increased expression of T-cell and B-cell receptor signaling pathways in responding (R) patients compared to non-responding (NR) patients. In addition, we observed down-regulation of T(REG)-cell pathways post-treatment in R vs. NR patients. While exploratory in nature, this study supports the hypothesis that enhanced inflammatory cytotoxic pathways coupled with blunting of the regulatory pathways is necessary for effective anti-cancer activity associated with immune therapy. This type of analysis can potentially identify additional immune therapeutic targets in patients with mRCC.
To evaluate CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) T regulatory cells (T(REG)) and associated immune-regulatory pathways in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) of metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) patients and healthy volunteers. We subsequently investigated the effects of immunotherapy on circulating T(REG) combining an extensive phenotype examination, DNA methylation analysis and global transcriptome analysis.
Genome-wide profiling of copy number alterations by array-based high resolution comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH) is an important method to ensure the genomic integrity of cells in diverse conditions. We observed that the analysis of genomic profiles, in particular of fast-dividing murine leukemia cell lines, is challenging due to characteristic patterns oscillating around the array-CGH baseline. Here we show array-CGH data can be drastically improved by reducing proliferation rates of cultured cells using deprivation protocols or cell cycle inhibitors. Arresting cell cycle in the G1 phase leads to smoother genomic profiles, and hence to a more reliable detection of copy number alterations.
Integrating vectors developed on the basis of various retroviruses have demonstrated therapeutic potential following genetic modification of long-lived hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Lentiviral vectors (LV) are assumed to circumvent genotoxic events previously observed with ?-retroviral vectors, due to their integration bias to transcription units in comparison to the ?-retroviral preference for promoter regions and CpG islands. However, recently several studies have revealed the potential for gene activation by LV insertions. Here, we report a murine acute B-lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) triggered by insertional gene inactivation. LV integration occurred into the 8th intron of Ebf1, a major regulator of B-lymphopoiesis. Various aberrant splice variants could be detected that involved splice donor and acceptor sites of the lentiviral construct, inducing downregulation of Ebf1 full-length message. The transcriptome signature was compatible with loss of this major determinant of B-cell differentiation, with partial acquisition of myeloid markers, including Csf1r (macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) receptor). This was accompanied by receptor phosphorylation and STAT5 activation, both most likely contributing to leukemic progression. Our results highlight the risk of intragenic vector integration to initiate leukemia by inducing haploinsufficiency of a tumor suppressor gene. We propose to address this risk in future vector design.
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