CD93 Marks a Non-Quiescent Human Leukemia Stem Cell Population and Is Required for Development of MLL-Rearranged Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
ABSTRACT: Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) are thought to share several properties with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), including cell-cycle quiescence and a capacity for self-renewal. These features are hypothesized to underlie leukemic initiation, progression, and relapse, and they also complicate efforts to eradicate leukemia through therapeutic targeting of LSCs without adverse effects on HSCs. Here, we show that acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) with genomic rearrangements of the MLL gene contain a non-quiescent LSC population. Although human CD34(+)CD38(-) LSCs are generally highly quiescent, the C-type lectin CD93 is expressed on a subset of actively cycling, non-quiescent AML cells enriched for LSC activity. CD93 expression is functionally required for engraftment of primary human AML LSCs and leukemogenesis, and it regulates LSC self-renewal predominantly by silencing CDKN2B, a major tumor suppressor in AML. Thus, CD93 expression identifies a predominantly cycling, non-quiescent leukemia-initiating cell population in MLL-rearranged AML, providing opportunities for selective targeting and eradication of LSCs.
Project description:Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) share several crucial properties with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) including self-renewal, cell cycle quiescence, and expression of a CD34+CD38- immunophenotype, which complicates efforts to eradicate AML by therapeutically targeting LSCs without adversely affecting HSCs. Here we report that CD93, a C-type lectin transmembrane receptor, is preferentially expressed on the cell surface of LSCs compared with HSCs in the genetic subtype of AML with genomic rearrangements of the MLL gene. LSCs that selectively express CD93 are actively cycling, and highly enriched for xeno-engraftment potential, yet comprise a minor component of an otherwise quiescent CD34+CD38- compartment of human AML. Notably, CD93 is required for LSC function in MLL leukemogenesis, and is not simply a passive surface marker co-expressed on LSCs. Thus, CD93 selectively marks and essentially maintains LSCs, and identifies them as predominantly cycling, non-quiescent leukemia-initiating cells in MLL-rearranged AML. Overall design: Comparison of gene expression profiles of the LSC-enriched (CD34+CD38-CD93+) versus LSC-depleted (CD34+CD38-CD93-) populations from within individual MLLr leukemias
Project description:The microRNA-99 (miR-99) family comprises a group of broadly conserved microRNAs that are highly expressed in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and acute myeloid leukemia stem cells (LSCs) compared with their differentiated progeny. Herein, we show that miR-99 regulates self-renewal in both HSCs and LSCs. miR-99 maintains HSC long-term reconstitution activity by inhibiting differentiation and cell cycle entry. Moreover, miR-99 inhibition induced LSC differentiation and depletion in an MLL-AF9-driven mouse model of AML, leading to reduction in leukemia-initiating activity and improved survival in secondary transplants. Confirming miR-99's role in established AML, miR-99 inhibition induced primary AML patient blasts to undergo differentiation. A forward genetic shRNA library screen revealed Hoxa1 as a critical mediator of miR-99 function in HSC maintenance, and this observation was independently confirmed in both HSCs and LSCs. Together, these studies demonstrate the importance of noncoding RNAs in the regulation of HSC and LSC function and identify miR-99 as a critical regulator of stem cell self-renewal.
Project description:Standard chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) targets proliferative cells and efficiently induces complete remission; however, many patients relapse and die of their disease. Relapse is caused by leukemia stem cells (LSC), the cells with self-renewal capacity. Self-renewal and proliferation are separate functions in normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in steady-state conditions. If these functions are also separate functions in LSCs, then antiproliferative therapies may fail to target self-renewal, allowing for relapse. We investigated whether proliferation and self-renewal are separate functions in LSCs as they often are in HSCs. Distinct transcriptional profiles within LSCs of Mll-AF9/NRASG12V murine AML were identified using single-cell RNA sequencing. Single-cell qPCR revealed that these genes were also differentially expressed in primary human LSCs and normal human HSPCs. A smaller subset of these genes was upregulated in LSCs relative to HSPCs; this subset of genes constitutes "LSC-specific" genes in human AML. To assess the differences between these profiles, we identified cell surface markers, CD69 and CD36, whose genes were differentially expressed between these profiles. In vivo mouse reconstitution assays resealed that only CD69High LSCs were capable of self-renewal and were poorly proliferative. In contrast, CD36High LSCs were unable to transplant leukemia but were highly proliferative. These data demonstrate that the transcriptional foundations of self-renewal and proliferation are distinct in LSCs as they often are in normal stem cells and suggest that therapeutic strategies that target self-renewal, in addition to proliferation, are critical to prevent relapse and improve survival in AML. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings define and functionally validate a self-renewal gene profile of leukemia stem cells at the single-cell level and demonstrate that self-renewal and proliferation are distinct in AML. GRAPHICAL ABSTRACT: http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/canres/80/3/458/F1.large.jpg.
Project description:Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) engage in complex bidirectional signals with the hematopoietic microenvironment (HM), and there is emerging evidence that leukemia stem cells (LSCs) may use similar interactions. Using a syngeneic retroviral model of MLL-AF9 induced acute myeloid leukemia (AML), we have identified 2 different stages of leukemia progression, propagated by "pre-LSCs" and established leukemia (LSCs) and compared the homing properties of these distinctive entities to that of normal HSCs. The homing and microlocalization of pre-LSCs was most similar to long-term HSCs and was dependent on cell-intrinsic Wnt signaling. In contrast, the homing of established LSCs was most similar to that of committed myeloid progenitors and distinct from HSCs. Although osteoblast-derived Dickkopf-1, a potent Wnt inhibitor known to impair HSC function, dramatically impaired normal HSC localization within the bone marrow, it did not affect pre-LSCs, LSC homing, or AML development. Mechanistically, cell-intrinsic Wnt activation was observed in human and murine AML samples, explaining the independence of MLL-AF9 LSCs from niche-derived Wnt signals. These data identify differential engagement of HM associated with leukemic progression and identify an LSC niche that is physically distinct and independent of the constraints of Wnt signaling that apply to normal HSCs.
Project description:The main challenge in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is relapse, as it has no good treatment options and 90% of relapsed patients die as a result. It is now well accepted that relapse is due to a persisting subset of AML cells known as leukemia-initiating cells or leukemic stem cells (LSCs). Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) reside in the bone marrow microenvironment (BMM), a specialized niche that coordinates HSC self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation. HSCs are divided into two types: long-term HSCs (LT-HSCs) and short-term HSCs, where LT-HSCs are typically quiescent and act as a reserve of HSCs. Like LT-HSCs, a quiescent population of LSCs also exist. Like LT-HSCs, quiescent LSCs have low metabolic activity and receive pro-survival signals from the BMM, making them resistant to drugs, and upon discontinuation of therapy, they can become activated and re-establish the disease. Several studies have shown that the activation of quiescent LSCs may sensitize them to cytotoxic drugs. However, it is very difficult to experimentally model the quiescence-inducing BMM. Here we report that culturing AML cells with bone marrow stromal cells, transforming growth factor beta-1 and hypoxia in a three-dimensional system can replicate the quiescence-driving BMM. A quiescent-like state of the AML cells was confirmed by reduced cell proliferation, increased percentage of cells in the G<sub>0</sub> cell cycle phase and a decrease in absolute cell numbers, expression of markers of quiescence, and reduced metabolic activity. Furthermore, the culture could be established as co-axial microbeads, enabling high-throughput screening, which has been used to identify combination drug treatments that could break BMM-mediated LSC quiescence, enabling the eradication of quiescent LSCs.
Project description:FOXM1, a known transcription factor, promotes cell proliferation in a variety of cancer cells. Here we show that Foxm1 is required for survival, quiescence and self-renewal of MLL-AF9 (MA9)-transformed leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in vivo. Mechanistically, Foxm1 upregulation activates the Wnt/?-catenin signaling pathways by directly binding to ?-catenin and stabilizing ?-catenin protein through inhibiting its degradation, thereby preserving LSC quiescence, and promoting LSC self-renewal in MLL-rearranged AML. More importantly, inhibition of FOXM1 markedly suppresses leukemogenic potential and induces apoptosis of primary LSCs from MLL-rearranged AML patients in vitro and in vivo in xenograft mice. Thus, our study shows a critical role and mechanisms of Foxm1 in MA9-LSCs, and indicates that FOXM1 is a potential therapeutic target for selectively eliminating LSCs in MLL-rearranged AML.
Project description:Leukemias exhibit a dysregulated developmental program mediated through both genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Although IKZF2 is expressed in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), we found that it is dispensable for mouse and human HSC function. In contrast to its role as a tumor suppressor in hypodiploid B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia, we found that IKZF2 is required for myeloid leukemia. IKZF2 is highly expressed in leukemic stem cells (LSCs), and its deficiency results in defective LSC function. IKZF2 depletion in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells reduced colony formation, increased differentiation and apoptosis, and delayed leukemogenesis. Gene expression, chromatin accessibility, and direct IKZF2 binding in MLL-AF9 LSCs demonstrate that IKZF2 regulates a HOXA9 self-renewal gene expression program and inhibits a C/EBP-driven differentiation program. Ectopic HOXA9 expression and CEBPE depletion rescued the effects of IKZF2 depletion. Thus, our study shows that IKZF2 regulates the AML LSC program and provides a rationale to therapeutically target IKZF2 in myeloid leukemia.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Overexpression of Wilms' tumor-1 (WT1) transcription factor facilitates proliferation in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, whether WT1 is enriched in the leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) and leukemia stem cells (LSCs) and facilitates the self-renewal of LSCs remains poorly understood.<h4>Methods</h4>MLL-AF9-induced murine leukemia model was used to evaluate the effect of knockdown of wt1 on the self-renewal ability of LSC. RNA sequencing was performed on WT1-overexpressing cells to select WT1 targets. Apoptosis and colony formation assays were used to assess the anti-leukemic potential of a deubiquitinase inhibitor WP1130. Furthermore, NOD/SCID-IL2R? (NSG) AML xenotransplantation and MLL-AF9-induced murine leukemia models were used to evaluate the anti-leukemogenic potential of WP1130 in vivo.<h4>Results</h4>We found that wt1 is highly expressed in LICs and LSCs and facilitates the maintenance of leukemia in a murine MLL-AF9-induced model of AML. WT1 enhanced the self-renewal of LSC by increasing the expression of BCL2L2, a member of B cell lymphoma 2 (BCL2) family, by direct binding to its promoter region. Loss of WT1 impaired self-renewal ability in LSC and delayed the progression of leukemia. WP1130 was found to modify the WT1-BCL2L2 axis, and WP1130-induced anti-leukemic activity was mediated by ubiquitin proteasome-mediated destruction of WT1 protein. WP1130 induced apoptosis and decreased colony formation abilities of leukemia cells and prolonged the overall survival in the THP1-based xenograft NSG mouse model. WP1130 also decreased the frequency of LSC and prolonged the overall survival in MLL-AF9-induced murine leukemia model. Mechanistically, WP1130 induced the degradation of WT1 by positively affecting the ubiquitination of WT1 protein.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our results indicate that WT1 is required for the development of AML. WP1130 exhibits anti-leukemic activity by inhibiting the WT1-BCL2L2 axis, which may represent a new acute myeloid leukemia therapy target.
Project description:Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) are the rare populations of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells that are able to initiate, maintain, and propagate AML. Targeting LSCs is a promising approach for preventing AML relapse and improving long-term outcomes. While Slug, a zinc-finger transcription repressor, negatively regulates the self-renewal of normal hematopoietic stem cells, its functions in AML are still unknown. We report here that Slug promotes leukemogenesis and its loss impairs LSC self-renewal and delays leukemia progression. Mechanistically, Slc13a3, a direct target of Slug in LSCs, restricts the self-renewal of LSCs and markedly prolongs recipient survival. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of SLUG or forced expression of Slc13a3 suppresses the growth of human AML cells. In conclusion, our studies demonstrate that Slug differentially regulates self-renewal of LSCs and normal HSCs, and both Slug and Slc13a3 are potential therapeutic targets of LSCs.
Project description:The cell of origin, defined as the normal cell in which the transformation event first occurs, is poorly identified in leukemia, despite its importance in understanding of leukemogenesis and improving leukemia therapy. Although hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) were used for leukemia models, whether their self-renewal and differentiation potentials influence the initiation and development of leukemia is largely unknown. In this study, the self-renewal and differentiation potentials in 2 distinct types of HSCs (HSC1 [CD150+CD41-CD34-Lineage-Sca-1+c-Kit+ cells] and HSC2 [CD150-CD41-CD34-Lineage-Sca-1+c-Kit+ cells]) and 3 distinct types of HPCs (HPC1 [CD150+CD41+CD34-Lineage-Sca-1+c-Kit+ cells], HPC2 [CD150+CD41+CD34+Lineage-Sca-1+c-Kit+ cells], and HPC3 [CD150-CD41-CD34+Lineage-Sca-1+c-Kit+ cells]) were isolated from adult mouse bone marrow, and examined by competitive repopulation assay. Then, cells from each population were retrovirally transduced to initiate MLL-AF9 acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and the intracellular domain of NOTCH-1 T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). AML and T-ALL similarly developed from all HSC and HPC populations, suggesting multiple cellular origins of leukemia. New leukemic stem cells (LSCs) were also identified in these AML and T-ALL models. Notably, switching between immunophenotypical immature and mature LSCs was observed, suggesting that heterogeneous LSCs play a role in the expansion and maintenance of leukemia. Based on this mouse model study, we propose that acute leukemia arises from multiple cells of origin independent of the self-renewal and differentiation potentials in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells and is amplified by LSC switchover.