Abstract 95

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is an incurable stem cell disorder characterized by ineffective hematopoiesis and an increased risk of leukemia transformation. Nucleophosmin (NPM) is directly implicated in primitive hematopoiesis, the pathogenesis of hematopoietic malignancies and more recently of MDS. However, little is known regarding the molecular role and function of NPM in MDS pathogenesis and in stem cell biology. Here we present data demonstrating that NPM plays a critical role in the maintenance of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and the transformation of MDS into leukemia.

NPM is located on chromosome 5q and is frequently lost in therapy-related and de novo MDS. We have previously shown that Npm1 acts as a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor in the hematopoietic compartment and Npm1+/− mice develop a hematologic syndrome with features of human MDS, including increased susceptibility to leukemogenesis. As HSCs have been demonstrated to be the target of the primary neoplastic event in MDS, a functional analysis of the HSC compartment is essential to understand the molecular mechanisms in MDS pathogenesis. However, the role of NPM in adult hematopoiesis remains largely unknown as Npm1-deficiency leads to embryonic lethality.

To investigate NPM function in adult hematopoiesis, we have generated conditional knockout mice of Npm1, using the Cre-loxP system. Analysis of Npm1 conditional mutants crossed with Mx1-Cre transgenic mice reveals that Npm1 plays a crucial role in adult hematopoiesis and ablation of Npm1 in adult HSCs leads to aberrant cycling and followed by apoptosis. Analysis of cell cycle status revealed that HSCs are impaired in their ability to maintain quiescence after Npm1-deletion and are rapidly depleted in vivo as well as in vitro. Competitive reconstitution assay revealed that Npm1 acts cell-autonomously to maintain HSCs. Conditional inactivation of Npm1 leads to an MDS phenotype including a profoundly impaired ability to differentiate into cells of the erythroid lineage, megakaryocyte dyspoiesis and centrosome amplification. Furthermore, Npm1 loss evokes a p53-dependent response and Npm1-deleted HSCs undergo apoptosis in vivo and in vitro. Strikingly, transfer of the Npm1 mutation into a p53-null background rescued the apoptosis of Npm1-ablated HSCs and resulted in accelerated transformation to an aggressive and lethal form of acute myeloid leukemia. Our findings highlight the crucial role of NPM in stem cell biology and identify a new mechanism by which MDS can progress to leukemia. This has important therapeutic implications for de novo MDS as well as therapy-related MDS, which is known to rapidly evolve to leukemia with frequent loss or mutation of TRP53.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.