Classical BCR-ABL-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) include Polycythemia Vera (PV), Essential Thrombocytemia (ET) and Primary Myelofibrosis (PMF). They are malignant homeopathies resulting from the transformation of a multipotent hematopoietic stem cell (HSC). The common mechanism of transformation is the constitutive activation of the cytokine receptor/JAK2 pathway that leads to the myeloproliferation. The acquired point mutation JAK2V617F is the most prevalent (95% of PV and 60% of ET or PMF). In addition, other mutations affecting the same signaling pathway have been described such as JAK2 exon 12 mutations, mutations of MPL affecting W515, and loss-of-function mutations of LNK and also mutations of c-Cbl in 3% of PMF. Recently, whole exome sequencing allowed identifying a new recurrent genetic abnormalities in the exon 9 of the calreticulin gene (CALR) in about 30% of ET and PMF patients. All CALR mutants induce a frameshift of the same alternative reading frame and generate a novel C-terminus tail.

To address the role of these new mutants in the pathophysiology of MPN, the goal of this study was to investigate the effect of the CALR mutant (del52 and ins5) expression by a retroviral mouse modeling.

For that purpose, we transduced bone marrow cells with retrovirus expressing either CALRdel52, CALRins5, CALRWT or CALRDexon9 and performed a transplantation in lethally irradiated recipient mice (10 mice / group), which were then followed over one year.

CALRdel52 expressing mice showed a rapid and strong increased in platelet counts (over 5 x106/mL) without any other changes in blood parameters during 6 months. In contrast, CALRins5 expressing mice presented platelet counts much lower than CALRdel52 but significantly higher than CALRWT or CALRDexon9 expressing mice. After 6 months, CALRdel52 expressing mice showed a decreased in platelets count associated with anemia and development of splenomegaly suggesting the progression to a myelofibrosis. Importantly, the disease was transplantable to secondary recipient for both CALRdel52 and CALRins5 mutants. The bone marrow and spleen were also analyzed over time. We observed a progressive increased in immature progenitors (SLAM cells) as well as a hypersensitivity of the megakaryocytic progenitors (CFU-MK) to thrombopoietin.

Altogether, these results demonstrate that CALR mutants are able and sufficient to induce a thrombocytosis progressing to myelofibrosis in retroviral mouse model, thus mimicking the natural history of MPN patients. It will offer a good in vivo model to investigate therapeutic approaches for CALR-positive MPN.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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