Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), the most prevalent adult B-cell malignancy in western countries, is a highly heterogeneous with a very variable clinical outcome. Emerging evidence indicates that the stromal tumor microenvironment (STME) play important roles in the pathogenesis of CLL. However, the precise mechanism and molecules of STME involved in this process remain unknown. In an attempt to explore the role of STME in this process, we examined the expression levels of stromal associated genes using gene expression profiling (GEP) of CLL cells from 53 patientsâ€™ lymph node (LN) (n=15), bone marrow (BM) (n =18), and peripheral blood (PB) (n=20). Using significant analyses of microarray (SAM), gene set enrichment analyses (GSEA), and ingenuity pathway analyses (IPA), among the major pathways associated with the differentially expressed genes, a cytoskeleton genes associated with stromal signatures are the focus of this report. Of these molecules, a significant number of molecules including: LUM, MMP9, MYLK, ITGA9, CAV1, CAV2, FBN1, PARVA, CALD1, ITGB5 and EHD2 were overexpressed and ITGB2, DLC1 and ITGA6 are under expressed in LN-CLL compared to BM-CLL and PB-CLL indicating a role of LN-mediated TME in CLL cell survival/progression. Among these genes, expression of myosin light chain kinase (MYLK), caveolin 1 (CAV1) and caveolin 2 (CAV2) correlated with clinical outcome (see adjacent Figure) as determined by time to treatment. We recently reported the role of a CAV1 in LN microenvironment-induced immune tolerance in CLL and possibility of their involvement in CLL cytoskeleton (Gilling et al, 2012). In the present study we report aberrant expression of other cytoskeleton genes such as MYLK and CAV2 are involved in the regulation of CLL cell survival in the stromal microenvironment affecting other members of the cytoskeletal signature via actin cytoskeleton signaling, integrin signaling and Pak signaling. In addition, MYLK and CAV2 are also involved in regulation of CLL proliferation. Together our studies show that members of the stromal signature particularly in the CLL cells from lymph nodes regulate the CLL cell survival and proliferation and thus leukemic progression.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.