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Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2008;73:461-7. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2008.73.039. Epub 2008 Nov 21.

The INK4-ARF (CDKN2A/B) locus in hematopoiesis and BCR-ABL-induced leukemias.

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  • 1Departments of Oncology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.


Senescence and apoptosis programs governed by the Rb and p53 signaling networks can counter tissue stem cell self-renewal. A master regulator of Rb and p53 is the INK4-ARF (CDKN2A/B) locus that encodes two CDK inhibitors, p16(INK4A) and p15(INK4B), that maintain Rb in its active, hypophosphorylated form, and p14(ARF) (p19(Arf) in mice), that inhibits Mdm2 and activates p53. The INK4-ARF genes are epigenetically silenced in hematopoietic stem cells but become poised to respond to oncogenic stress as blood cells differentiate. Inactivation of INK4-ARF endows differentiated cells with an inappropriate self-renewal capacity, a defining feature of cancer cells. In BCR-ABL-induced (Philadelphia chromosome-positive [Ph(+)]) leukemias, INK4-ARF deletions frequently occur in clinically aggressive acute lymphoblastic leukemias (Ph(+) ALLs) but are not seen in more indolent Ph(+) chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) or in CML myeloid blast crisis. Mouse modeling of Ph(+) ALL reveals that Arf inactivation attenuates responsiveness to targeted BCR-ABL kinase inhibitors, enhances the maintenance of leukemia-initiating cells within the hematopoietic microenvironment, and facilitates the emergence of malignant clones that harbor drug-resistant BCR-ABL kinase mutations. Thus, although BCR-ABL mutations typify drug resistance in both CML and Ph(+) ALL, loss of INK4-ARF in Ph(+) ALL enhances disease aggressiveness and undermines the salutary effects of targeted therapy.

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