The t(8;21)(q22;q22) translocation is one of the most common chromosomal translocations in de novo acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The 8;21 translocation is often associated with additional cytogenetic abnormalities. The loss of the sex chromosome (LOS) is by far the most frequent abnormality found in association with the t(8;21) leukemia, accounting for 32–59% of patients, in contrast to other types of AML in which the LOS occurs in less than 5% of patients. To evaluate the role of sex chromosome deletion in t(8;21)-related leukemogenesis, hematopoietic cells from a mouse line with only one sex chromosome were used in retrovirus-mediated t(8;21) (AML1-ETO) expression and transplantation assays. The absence of leukemia in those animals suggested that a gene present in the pseudoautosomal region of sex chromosomes in humans but not in mice may be the target gene in LOS. The granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor receptor α (GM-CSFRα) gene is one such gene and is also known to be involved in myeloid cell survival, proliferation and differentiation. The GM-CSFRα gene is specifically down-regulated in AML patients with t(8;21), but not in other common translocations (Valk PJM et al, NEJM, 2004). The GM-CSFR complex is composed of α and βc subunits that assemble into a complex for receptor activation and signaling. To investigate the role of GM-CSFR signaling in t(8;21)-mediated leukemogenesis, GM-CSFR common β subunit knockout (GM-CSFRβc-/-) mice were used in our studies as a model for deficient GM-CSFR signaling. Transduction of AML1-ETO in hematopoietic cells from GM-CSFRβc-/- resulted in myeloid leukemia of a median survival time of 225 days, high percentage of blasts in peripheral blood and bone marrow, anemia, thrombocytopenia, hepatomegaly and splenomegaly. Comparison of wild-type and GM-CSFRβc-/- cells in the same transplantation resulted in development of AML1-ETO-induced leukemia at higher penetrance in GM-CSFRβc-/- cells (28.5% vs 100%). Moreover, the latency of leukemia was shorter in GM-CSFRβc-/- cells than in wild-type cells after transduction of AML1-ETO9a. Analysis of the hematopoietic compartment of healthy GM-CSFRβc-/- mice detected no significant abnormalities in the immature hematopoietic compartment (LSK, CMP, GMP, MEP), suggesting that AML1-ETO expression is required for leukemia to occur. In vitro, expression of AML1-ETO alone is sufficient for the immortalization of normal hematopoietic cells, as demonstrated by serial replating capacity of cells in methylcellulose colony assay. Addition of mGM-CSF to the basic cytokine cocktail (mIL-3, hIL-6, mSCF, hEPO) did not significantly affect number, type, size, and cell composition of colony cells. In contrast, the addition of mGM-CSF eliminated the replating capacity of AML1-ETO expressing cells, although they survived longer than control vector-infected cells. The results suggest that activation of GM-CSF signaling can specifically abrogate the self-renewal ability of potential leukemic stem cells in the early immortalization phase. These results support a possible tumor suppressor role of GM-CSF in leukemogeneis by AML1-ETO and may provide clues to understand how AML1-ETO corrupts normal GM-CSF signals to its own advantage for leukemogenic transformation.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.