Activating mutations in Flt3, N- and K-Ras have been reported in all AML subtypes and represent common molecular defects in de novo AML. We have previously shown that these mutations lead to constitutive AKT phosphorylation and activation. As a consequence, Akt phosphorylation is found in myeloid blasts of the majority of AML patients. We reasoned that constitutively active AKT may contribute to leukemia development, and therefore we assessed the contribution of AKT in oncogenic transformation in vivo. For this purpose, we established an inducible mouse model expressing myristylated AKT1 under the control of the scl-3′ enhancer (MyrAKT1). This system restricts activated AKT1 to endothelium, hematopoietic stem cells and myeloid lineage cells at a low but detectable level. About 40% of induced mice developed a myeloproliferative disorder after latencies of 7 to 22 months. Onset of disease was frequently associated with hemangioma formation, due to endothelial MyrAKT1 expression. The myeloproliferative disorder was associated with splenomegaly with increased extramedullary hematopoiesis, while the peripheral blood contained mature granulocytes. Furthermore, the stem cell and progenitor cell compartment in spleens and bone marrow of these mice was altered compared to control mice. Colony formation assays with MyrAKT1-expressing bone marrow suggested that overactivation of AKT1 enhanced proliferation. The AKT1-induced disease was transplantable by both bone marrow and spleen cells. These findings highlight the oncogenic capacity of constitutively activated AKT1 in vivo and indicate that AKT is an attractive target for therapeutic intervention in AML.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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