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- Role of SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD and BCR/ABL mediated leukemogenesis (2010)
- Acute myeloid/lymphoid leukemia is a fatal hematological malignancy characterized by accumulation of nonfunctional, immature blasts, which interferes with the production of normal blood cells. Activating mutations of receptor tyrosine kinases are common genetic lesions in leukemia. FLT3-ITD is a frequent activating mutation found in AML patients, leading to uncontrolled proliferation of leukemic blasts. FLT3-ITD directly activates STAT5, leading to the induction of STAT5 target gene expression like PIM kinases and SOCS genes. STAT5 and PIM kinases have been shown to play a crucial role in the FLT3-ITD mediated transformation. On the other hand, the role of SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD mediated transformation has not been studied to date. SOCS proteins are part of a negative feedback mechanism that controls Jak kinases downstream of cytokine receptors. One of the SOCS family members, SOCS1 has been reported to suppress oncogenecity of several activating kinases implicated in hematologic malignancies. In this thesis the role of these SOCS proteins in FLT3-ITD mediated transformation (in vitro) and leukemogenesis (in vivo) is systematically explored. Expression of FLT3-ITD in cell lines of myeloid (32D) and lymphoid (Ba/F3) origin, led to CIS, SOCS1 and SOCS2 expression. FLT3-ITD expression in primary murine bone marrow stem/progenitor cells led to a 59 fold induction of SOCS1 expression. Furthermore, FLT3-ITD positive AML cell lines (MV4-11, MOLM-13) show kinase dependent CIS, SOCS1, and SOCS3 expression. Importantly SOCS1 is highly expressed in AML patients with FLT3-ITD compared to healthy individuals. SOCS1 protein was expressed in FLT3-ITD transduced murine bone marrow stem cells and SOCS1 expression was abolished with kinase inhibition in MOLM-13 cell line. In conclusion, SOCS1 was highly regulated by FLT3-ITD in myeloid, lymphoid cell lines, in bone marrow stem/progenitors and in AML patient samples. SOCS1 co-expression did not affect FLT3-ITD mediated signaling and proliferation, but abolished IL-3 mediated proliferation and protected 32D cells from interferon-α and interferon-γ mediated growth inhibition. FLT3-ITD expressing 32D cells showed diminished STAT1 activation in response to interferons (α and γ). Alone, SOCS1 strongly inhibited cytokine induced colony formation of bone marrow stem and progenitors, but not FLT3-ITD induced colony formation. Most importantly, in the presence of growth inhibitory interferon-γ, SOCS1 co-expression with FLT3-ITD led to increased colony formation compared to FLT3-ITD alone. Taken together, FLT3-ITD induced and exogenously expressed SOCS1, shielded cells from external cytokines, signals, while not affecting FLT3-ITD induced proliferation/signaling. In further experiments the in vivo effects of SOCS1 were studied in a bone marrow transplantation model. SOCS1 bone marrow transplants were unable to engraft/proliferate in mice. FLT3-ITD was shown to induce a myeloproliferative disease. Both control (empty vector), SOCS1 transplanted mice were normal and did not show any disease phenotype. FLT3-ITD alone and SOCS1 co-expressing FLT3-ITD developed either myeloproliferative disease or acute lymphoblastic leukemia with equal distribution. SOCS1 co-expression with FLT3-ITD led to a decreased latency. Mice transplanted with FLT3-ITD alone and SOCS1 co-expressing FLT3-ITD displayed enlarged spleens, liver and hypercellular bone marrow indicating infiltration of leukemic cells. Mice were also anemic and showed decreased platelet counts. Importantly SOCS1 co-expression particularly shortened the latency of myeloproliferative disease but not of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In summary, in the context of FLT3-ITD, SOCS1 acts as a ‘conditional oncogene’ and cooperates with FLT3-ITD in the development of myeloproliferative disease. With these data we propose the following model: FLT3-ITD induces SOCS gene expression, which shields cells against proliferation and differentiation signals from cytokines, while not affecting FLT3-ITD mediated proliferative signals. This leaves cells under the dictate of FLT3-ITD thereby contributing to leukemogenesis. Similar to FLT3-ITD, BCR/ABL (P190) (an oncogenic fusion kinase often found in acute lymphoblastic leukemia) induces SOCS gene expression in K562 and long-term cultured cells from patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. SOCS1 co-expression does not affect BCR/ABL mediated proliferation while abrogating IL-3 mediated proliferation. These findings suggest that SOCS proteins may play a general co-operative role in the context of oncogenes which aberrantly activate STAT3/5 independently of JAK kinases. This study reveals a novel molecular mechanism of FLT3-ITD mediated leukemogenesis and suggests SOCS genes as potential therapeutic targets.