, Volume 138, Issue 2, pp 203-212
Date: 17 Nov 2011

Enhanced ABL-inhibitor-induced MAPK-activation in T315I-BCR-ABL-expressing cells: a potential mechanism of altered leukemogenicity

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Abstract

Background

Targeted treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia using imatinib has dramatically improved patient outcome. However, residual disease can be detected in the majority of patients treated with imatinib. Compensatory activation of MAP kinases (MAPK1/2) in response to BCR-ABL-inhibitors has been reported as a potential cytokine-dependent resistance mechanism leading to the rescue of leukemic progenitor cells.

Methods

Differential MAPK-modulating activity of clinically approved tyrosine kinase inhibitors was assessed in vitro using BCR-ABL-transformed cells. CD34+-enriched progenitors of newly diagnosed chronic myelogenous leukemia patients were exposed to tyrosine kinase inhibitors. MAPK-signaling was studied by Western blot technique. Proliferation assays were used to analyze response to antileukemic treatment.

Results

The ABL-inhibitors imatinib and nilotinib activate MAPKs in CD34+ chronic myelogenous leukemia progenitor cells, whereas treatment with the SRC/ABL-inhibitor dasatinib does not affect MAPK-activation at clinically relevant concentrations. Similar results are seen in BCR-ABL-transformed cells in the presence of interleukin-3 (IL-3). Experiments using BCR-ABL-mutant T315I, a resistance mutation not amenable to tyrosine kinase inhibitor binding, demonstrate that ABL-inhibitor-induced MAPK-activation does not depend on BCR-ABL-inhibition and cannot be prevented by selective SRC-inhibition. However, BCR-ABL-T315I enhances MAPK-activation, suggesting a T315I-dependent positive feedback of MAPK-activation. An autocrine IL-3-loop as trigger for aberrant T315I-dependent MAPK-activation was excluded.

Conclusions

Aberrant MAPK-activation triggered by ABL-inhibitors and positively regulated by BCR-ABL kinase mutation T315I might be an experimental explanation for the clinical observation that patients carrying high-resistance mutations show a highly aggressive course of their disease when tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment is not discontinued in time.

Nicolai Härtel and Thomas Klag contributed equally to this work.