Activation of the Hedgehog (Hh)/glioma-associated oncogene (GLI) pathway has been found in a growing number of malignancies. We have provided evidence that canonical Hh signaling is required for cell survival and proliferation of DLBCL cell lines. To confirm the pathogenic role of GLI1 in DLBCL, we established GLI1 knock down DLBCL cell lines (OCI-Ly19, HBL-1 and BJAB) using a lentiviral shRNA system and performed cell viability and apoptosis assays. Cell viability assays demonstrated that GLI1 knockdown DLBCL cells experienced a statistically significantly decrease in the number of viable cells in comparison with control cells harboring scramble shRNA. To examine whether decreases number of cell viability in GLI1 knock down cells were due to apoptosis, we performed annexin V and PI assays. We observed marked increase of apoptosis in GLI1 knock down DLBCL cells versus controls (2.5 fold increase for OCI-Ly10, and 5 fold for HBL1 and BJAB). To investigate the mechanism by which GLI1 regulates tumorigenesis and cell survival, we searched for whole genome GLI1-target genes in DLBCL cells using CHIP sequencing technique and identified AKT genes as potential targets of GLI1. Using pharmacological and silencing approaches, we observed that Hh signaling modulates the expression of AKT genes in DLBCL cells. We further identified two putative binding sites for GLI1 in the AKT1 promoter region and confirmed their functionality using chromatin immunoprecipitation, luciferase reporter and site-directed mutagenesis assays. To investigate whether there is any correlation between AKT1 and GLI1 mRNA expression in human DLBCL tumors, we performed quantitative real-time PCR analyses in 17 frozen DLBCL specimens including apharesis samples from pleural effusions. The real time PCR analysis revealed a strong Spearmen correlation coefficient (R2=0.9) between GLI1 and AKT1 mRNA expression. In summary, we provide evidence of the role of GLI1 in the pathobiology of DLBCL and demonstrated a cross talk, at the transcriptional level, between Hh signaling and AKT in DLBCL. A link between these 2 pathways at the trasncriptional level was not previoulsy documented. This finding is of clinical interest as AKT has a key role in lymphoma cell survival and constitutive activation of AKT has been described in DLBCL.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.