Background. Several TNF family members (CD40L and BAFF/BLYS) have been implicated in Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia (WM) cell growth and survival. More recently, abnormalities in the APRIL-TACI pathway have been demonstrated by us in WM cells (Hunter, ASH2006, #228). TRAFs (TNFR-associated factor) are a family of adaptor proteins that mediate signal transduction from multiple members of the TNF receptor superfamily. In particular, TRAFs facilitate pro-apoptotic signaling from the TACI receptor, and TRAF2 is of importance among the TRAF adapter proteins since this protein is required for TNF-alpha-mediated activation of SAPK/JNK MAPK known to be involved in drug-induced death of tumor B cells. We therefore examined the role of TRAF2 in WM growth and survival.

Method. We investigated TRAF2, 3 and 5 gene expression in WM patient bone marrow (BM) CD19+ cells and cell lines (BCWM.1, WSU-WM) and compared their expression to BM CD19+ cells from healthy donors. Expression of human TRAF transcripts were determined using real time quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR) based on TaqMan fluorescence methodology. To evaluate the role of TRAF2, a knockdown model was prepared in BL2126 B-cells and BCWM.1 WM cells using electroporation, with resulted ≥50% knockdown efficiency using RT-PCR and immunoblotting.

Results. We found that TRAF3 and 5 gene expression was higher in WM versus healthy donors, while TRAF2 expression was lower in 8/13 (60%) patients, using qPCR. TRAFs gene expression did not correlate with tumor burden or WM prognostic markers. We next sought to understand the biological sequelae of TRAF2 deficiency in BL2126 and BCWM.1 cells and found that TRAF2 knockdown induced increased survival at 72 hours in both cell lines. We next studied sequence analysis of 20 WM patients CD19+ BM cells to determine whether there was a TRAF2 genomic alteration, and found heterozygous early termination mutation in exon 5 in 1 (5%) patient.

Conclusion. Our data demonstrate that TRAF2 is a commonly dysregulated TNF family adapter protein in patients with WM, with important consequences in WM cell growth and survival.

Author notes

Disclosure: Research Funding: International Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia Foundation.