The chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) and its receptor, CXCR4, participate in the retention of AML cells within the bone marrow microenvironment and their release into the circulation. We previously showed that the expression of cell surface elastase in AML cells is dependent on the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis, giving a first evidence for the association between the SDF-1 and elastase pathways. In the present study, we hypothesized that inhibition of the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis or elastase may regulate similar pathways and genes in AML cells. In order to test our hypothesis, we compared gene expression profiles of U937 AML cells that express high level of membrane CXCR4, treated with neutralizing CXCR4 mAb or elastase inhibitor (EI), with non-treated cells, by employing gene-array technology. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis demonstrated similar gene expression profiles of anti-CXCR4 antibody or EI treated cells, as compared to control. Analysis of the 364 genes that were differentially expressed in both anti CXCR4 mAb or EI treated cells under both treatment agents identified genes that correspond to the transcriptional profiles of differentiated myeloid cells in a significantly high prevalence. Quantitative Real-time RT-PCR for 4 selected genes C/EBPe, FLT3, HOXA9 and G-CSFR, demonstrated gene expression profiles identical to the microarray expression profiles. Given thus, we further analyzed the effect of CXCR4 inhibition on AML cell growth and differentiation using the antagonist AMD3100. AMD3100 arrested proliferation in five AML cell lines as was suggested by proliferation assay, cell cycle and caspase 3 activity analyses. Moreover, cell differentiation was demonstrated by:

  1. Modifications in cell morphology,

  2. Increased expression of myeloid differentiation antigens

  3. Acquisition of the ability to produce oxidative bursts

  4. An increase in DNA ploidy in megakaryoblasts. Our study defines a new role for the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis in the regulation of leukemic cell survival and differentiation.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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