Molecular pathogenesis of disease progression in MLL-rearranged AML.


Department of Pathology and Tumor Biology, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan. [Email]


Leukemic relapse is frequently accompanied by progressively aggressive clinical course. To understand the molecular mechanism of leukemic relapse, MLL/AF9-transformed mouse leukemia cells were serially transplanted in C57BL/6 mice (N = 96) by mimicking repeated recurrences, where mutations were monitored by exome sequencing (N = 42). The onset of leukemia was progressively promoted with advanced transplants, during which increasing numbers of somatic mutations were acquired (P < 0.005). Among these, mutations in Ptpn11 (p.G60R) and Braf (p.V637E) corresponded to those identified in human MLL-AML, while recurrent mutations affecting Msn (p.R295C) were observed only in mouse but not in human MLL-AML. Another mutated gene of interest was Gnb2 which was reported to be recurrently mutated in various hematological neoplasms. Gnb2 mutations (p.G77R) were significantly increased in clone size (P = 0.007) and associated with earlier leukemia onset (P = 0.011). GNB2 transcripts were significantly upregulated in human MLL-AML compared to MLL-negative AML (P < 0.05), which was supported by significantly increased Gnb2 transcript induced by MLL/AF9 overexpression (P < 0.001). In in vivo model, both mutation and overexpression of GNB2 caused leukemogenesis, and downregulation of GNB2 expression reduced proliferative potential and survival benefit, suggesting a driver role of GNB2. In conclusion, alterations of driver genes over time may play an important role in the progression of MLL-AML.