Among the subtypes of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) responds dramatically to differentiation therapy with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA). However, ATRA is not sufficient to induce differentiation in non-APL AML. Although the molecular basis for the poor response of non-APL AML to ATRA was poorly understood, Lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1), the histone demetylase, was found to inhibit the retinoic acid pathway by chromatin modification through H3K4 demethylation, resulting in silencing of gene expression targeted by retinoic acid. Herein, we first evaluated whether MLL fusion partners, such as MLL-AF9 and MLL-AF4/AF5q31, affect the sensitivity of ATRA in human and murine MLL fusion positive AML cells, which is one of the most aggressive pediatric AML. In addition, we also assess whether the LSD1 inhibitor affects the ATRA sensitivity in MLL fusion positive AML cells.
Three human AML cell lines with MLL fusion (THP-1 and MOLM-13 expressing MLL-AF9, and KOCL48 expressing MLL-AF4) and two murine leukemic cell lines derived from murine Lin- hematopoietic progenitors transduced by retroviral vector expressing MLL fusion genes, such as MLL-AF9 and MLL-AF5q31 were used in this study. To test the sensitivity of ATRA, all cell lines were treated with 1 μM ATRA for three days. Cell growth was analyzed by counting nuclei using a Coulter counter. Monocytic differentiation was assessed by morphological analysis, NBT reduction test and flow cytometric analysis (FCM) of CD11b expression. FCM analysis was also carried out to evaluate cell cycle and annexin V assay. Quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis and western blotting was carried out to measure the RARα, C/EBPα, C/EBPε, and PU.1 expressions. To determine whether Tranylcypromine (TCP), which is a nonreversible LSD1 inhibitor, could decrease the IC50 of ATRA in MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cells, KOCL48 and murine MLL-AF5q31 expressing cells were treated with 0μM or 10μM TCP and titrating doses of ATRA (ranging from 0μM to 10μM). After three days, cell count was analyzed by counting nuclei using a Coulter counter to evaluate IC50 of ATRA in each cell lines.
We first determined that morphological changes characteristic of monocytic differentiation, CD11b expression and NBT reduction are more readily induced by ATRA in human and murine MLL-AF9 positive cells than human and murine MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cells The NBT reduction percentage was 17.6±1.69 in THP-1, but 2.7±1.2 in KOCL48 cells (p<0.01). The ATRA treatment also induced growth inhibition accompanied with G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis more efficiency in MLL-AF9 positive cells than MLL-AF4/AF5q31 cells. The IC50 of ATRA for THP-1 cells was 0.21±0.04 μM, but 5.31±1.50 μM for KOCL48 cells (p<0.01) The percentage of cells arrested in G0/G1 phase and Annexin/PI positive cells were 84% and 17.8% in THP-1 but 40% and 4.8% in KOCL48, respectively. Furthermore, qRT-PCR analysis and western blot analysis revealed that ATRA increased expression level of RARα, C/EBPα, C/EBPε, and PU.1, which is involved in monocytic differentiation through retinoic acid pathway, in MLL-AF9 positive cells, but not in MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cells. Collectively, retinoic acid pathway is more impaired in MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cells than MLL-AF9 positive cells. Next, we also determined that ATRA and TCP combination treatment suppressed cell growth and decreased the IC50 of ATRA in KOCL48 and murine MLL-AF5q31 expressing cells (IC50 of ATRA: 0.20±0.10 μM and 0.20±0.09 μM with TCP, vs 5.5±3.2 μM and over 10 μM without TCP, p<0.05), accompanied with morphological changes and CD11b expression, suggesting that inhibition of LSD1 restores ATRA sensitivity in both cell lines.
Our data demonstrate that retinoic acid pathway was more profoundly impaired in MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cell than MLL-AF9 positive cells, suggesting MLL-AF4/AF5q31 contributes inactivation of retinoic acid pathway. Our data also demonstrate TCP restore the sensitivity of ATRA in ATRA-resistant MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cell lines, suggesting LSD1 plays a major role in inactivation of retinoic acid pathway in MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cells. Therefore, LSD1 inhibitor might be important novel therapeutic option for differentiation therapy of MLL-fusion positive AML, especially for ATRA resistant MLL-AF4/AF5q31 positive cells.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.