Key Points

  • GSK3 is overexpressed in, and functionally exploited by, lymphoma cells.

  • New GSK3 inhibitor 9-ING-41 induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest at prophase by targeting centrosomes and microtubule-bound GSK3β.

Abstract

Targeting the B-cell receptor and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/mTOR signaling pathways has shown meaningful, but incomplete, antitumor activity in lymphoma. Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) α and β are 2 homologous and functionally overlapping serine/threonine kinases that phosphorylate multiple protein substrates in several key signaling pathways. To date, no agent targeting GSK3 has been approved for lymphoma therapy. We show that lymphoma cells abundantly express GSK3α and GSK3β compared with normal B and T lymphocytes at the messenger RNA and protein levels. Utilizing a new GSK3 inhibitor 9-ING-41 and by genetic deletion of GSK3α and GSK3β genes using CRISPR/CAS9 knockout, GSK3 was demonstrated to be functionally important to lymphoma cell growth and proliferation. GSK3β binds to centrosomes and microtubules, and lymphoma cells treated with 9-ING-41 become arrested in mitotic prophase, supporting the notion that GSK3β is necessary for the progression of mitosis. By analyzing recently published RNA sequencing data on 234 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma patients, we found that higher expression of GSK3α or GSK3β correlates well with shorter overall survival. These data provide rationale for testing GSK3 inhibitors in lymphoma patient trials.

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