We have previously shown that the arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase gene (Alox5) functions as a critical regulator of leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in BCR-ABL-induced chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in mice (Chen Y, Hu Y, Zhang H, Peng C, Li S. Loss of the Alox5 gene impairs leukemia stem cells and prevents chronic myeloid leukemia. Nature Genetics 41:783-792, 2009). We believe that the Alox5 pathway represents a major molecular network in LSCs. Therefore, we decided to further dissect this pathway by comparing gene expression profiles between wild type and Alox5−/− LSCs from CML mice using the DNA microarray analysis. We identified a small group of candidate genes that were changed in expression in the absence of Alox5. Among these genes, we have identified the Msr1 gene and chosen to test the function of this gene in regulating LSC function, because this gene was up-regulated, indicating that it might play a tumor suppressor role in LSCs. In our CML mouse model, we observed that recipients of BCR-ABL transduced Msr1−/− bone marrow cells developed CML much rapidly than recipients of BCR-ABL transduced wide type bone marrow cells. To test whether this accelerated CML is related to abnormal function of LSCs, we carried out a serial transplantation assay by transferring bone marrow cells from primary recipients of BCR-ABL-transduced wild type or Msr1−/− donor bone marrow cells into secondary and next-generation of recipient mice to biologically assess the effect of Msr1 on LSCs. BCR-ABL-expressing wild type leukemia cells from bone marrow of CML mice were only able to transfer CML once, whereas BCR-ABL-expressing Msr1−/− leukemia cells were able to transfer lethal CML for five genrations. This observation indicates that BCR-ABL-expressing Msr1−/− LSCs have markedly increased stem cell function. To further compare the stem cell function, we performed the leukemia stem cell competition assay by 1:1 mixing wild type (CD45.1) and Msr1−/− (CD45.2) bone marrow cells from CML mice. At day 25 or 30 after transplantation, more than 60% and 95% of GFP+Gr-1+ cells in peripheral blood of the mice were CD45.2+Msr1−/− myeloid leukemia cells, and all these mice developed CML and died of CML derived from Msr1−/− LSCs. To confirm the tumor suppressor role of Msr1 in CML development, we co-expressed BCR-ABL and Msr1 in MSR1−/− bone marrow cells by retroviral transduction, followed by transplantation of these cells into recipient mice. The ectopically-expressed Msr1 in MSR1−/− bone marrow cells rescued the accelerated CML phenotype, and some recipient mice did not even develop the CML. Together, these results demonstrate that Msr1 plays a tumor suppressor role in LSCs. The Msr1 pathway is a novel molecular network in LSCs, and it will be important to fully study this pathway for developing curative therapeutic strategies for CML.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.