Recent experiments have demonstrated that MLL-translocation associated fusion proteins can transform either hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) or granulocyte macrophage progenitors (GMP) into leukemia stem cells. However, it may be that leukemogenic process differs when HSC are the cell of origin as compared to myeloid progenitors. We transduced either HSC or GMP with a retrovirus expressing MLL-AF9 and GFP followed by single cell sorting of transduced cells. Approximately 80% of singly sorted MLL-AF9 transduced GMP (MLL-AF9-GMP) and about 25% of MLL-AF9 transduced HSC (MLL-AF9-HSC) could be serially re-plated over 9 passages. Upon transplantation into syngeneic mice, 83% (n=12) of MLL-AF9-HSC single cell derived clones induced AML with a median latency 70 days. Approximately 30% (n=20) of MLL-AF9-GMP single cell derived clones induced AML, with median latency 112 days. When MLL-AF9-GMP single cell derived clones were co-infected with an empty retrovirus (to provide additional oncogenic events as a result of retroviral integration) before transplantation into recipient mice, 93% of the transplanted mice (n=15) developed AML with mean latency 65 days, similar to leukemia initiated from HSC. This suggests that either single GMP or HSC can be transformed into leukemia initiating cells. However, extra mutations appear to be required to induce leukemia from committed progenitors. Consistent with this hypothesis, southern blot analysis performed on leukemias initiated from 5,000 and 15,000 MLL-AF9 transduced HSC or GMP demonstrated polyclonal AML arising from HSC compared to oligoclonal AML arising from GMP. Next, we used bioluminescent imaging to follow disease kinetics. When 15,000 MLL-AF9 transduced HSC were injected into recipient mice, the disease accumulated in a linear fashion over 42 days. However, when 15,000 MLL-AF9 transduced GMP were injected the disease developed more slowly over 75 days. Immunophenotypic analysis of the resultant leukemias demonstrated that the HSC-derived and GMP-derived leukemias were quite similar, with a GMP-like population containing LSC in both cases. Globally, the two cell types were also very similar with their gene expression profile being more similar to GMP than any other progenitor or stem cell population. However, we found that in addition to the previously reported 363-gene “self-renewal associated signature” LSC derived from HSC also possessed high-level expression of genes such as Flt3, Mcl1, and Notch-1. Preliminary analysis also suggests that gene expression differences between HSC and GMP-derived leukemia stem cells may have prognostic significance in human AML. These data suggest that AML derived from different cells of origin, while globally quite similar, require a different number of genetic events, and have gene expression differences that may influence drug response.

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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