Deciphering the Pathogenesis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

University dissertation from Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy, Dept of Laboratory Medicine

Abstract: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a malignant disorder of the blood system. Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) supply and maintain this system by differentiating via intermediates into lineage-restricted progenitors that strongly proliferate to keep up with the high turn-over of mature blood cells. In AML, the mechanisms controlling differentiation and proliferation of myeloid cells are disturbed leading to the accumulation of undifferentiated cells that interfere with the production of normal blood cells. Mutations of the transcription factor C/EBP? have been observed in 10 percent in AML with normal cytogenetics. In addition, internal tandem duplications (ITD) of FLT3 are frequently observed alterations in AML and coincide with mutations of C/EBP?. The effects of FLT3-ITD cooperation with C/EBP? mutations in AML are not fully understood. To address this, knockin mouse strains harboring different Cebpa mutations and Flt3-ITD were used to generate an AML mouse model. This model demonstrated a block at the transition from pGMP to GMP due to disrupted C/EBP? function. The cooperative effect of FLT3-ITD is composed of enhancing the generation of leukemia-initiating GMPs and activation of STAT5 targets. In in vitro studies it was demonstrated that FLT3-ITD reduces the cytokine-requirements for cell growth and that leukemic cells harboring FLT3-ITD are more sensitive to inhibition of the FLT3 pathway in vitro. To address the impact of FLT3-ITD gene dosage and loss of Flt3 wild type allele in vivo the Flt3-ITD knockin mouse was crossed to the Flt3 receptor knockout mouse. These studies demonstrated that the myeloproliferative phenotype was FLT3-ITD dosage-dependent and independent of FL. In summary, the data presented provide deeper insights into oncogene cooperation and FLT3-ITD dosage in AML.