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Blood. 2013 Jun 13;121(24):4906-16. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-08-447763. Epub 2013 May 3.

AML1-ETO mediates hematopoietic self-renewal and leukemogenesis through a COX/β-catenin signaling pathway.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA, USA.


Developing novel therapies that suppress self-renewal of leukemia stem cells may reduce the likelihood of relapses and extend long-term survival of patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). AML1-ETO (AE) is an oncogene that plays an important role in inducing self-renewal of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs), leading to the development of leukemia stem cells. Previously, using a zebrafish model of AE and a whole-organism chemical suppressor screen, we have discovered that AE induces specific hematopoietic phenotypes in embryonic zebrafish through a cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 and β-catenin-dependent pathway. Here, we show that AE also induces expression of the Cox-2 gene and activates β-catenin in mouse bone marrow cells. Inhibition of COX suppresses β-catenin activation and serial replating of AE(+) mouse HSPCs. Genetic knockdown of β-catenin also abrogates the clonogenic growth of AE(+) mouse HSPCs and human leukemia cells. In addition, treatment with nimesulide, a COX-2 selective inhibitor, dramatically suppresses xenograft tumor formation and inhibits in vivo progression of human leukemia cells. In summary, our data indicate an important role of a COX/β-catenin-dependent signaling pathway in tumor initiation, growth, and self-renewal, and in providing the rationale for testing potential benefits from common COX inhibitors as a part of AML treatments.

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