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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Oct 26;96(22):12804-9.

Autocrine production and action of IL-3 and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in chronic myeloid leukemia.

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The Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, BC Canada V5Z 1L3.


Primitive subsets of leukemic cells isolated by using fluorescence-activated cell sorting from patients with newly diagnosed Ph(+)/BCR-ABL(+) chronic myeloid leukemia display an abnormal ability to proliferate in vitro in the absence of added growth factors. We now show from analyses of growth-factor gene expression, protein production, and antibody inhibition studies that this deregulated growth can be explained, at least in part, by a novel differentiation-controlled autocrine mechanism. This mechanism involves the consistent and selective activation of IL-3 and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) production and a stimulation of STAT5 phosphorylation in CD34(+) leukemic cells. When these cells differentiate into CD34(-) cells in vivo, IL-3 and G-CSF production declines, and the cells concomitantly lose their capacity for autonomous growth in vitro despite their continued expression of BCR-ABL. Based on previous studies of normal cells, excessive exposure of the most primitive chronic myeloid leukemia cells to IL-3 and G-CSF through an autocrine mechanism could explain their paradoxically decreased self-renewal in vitro and slow accumulation in vivo, in spite of an increased cycling activity and selective expansion of later compartments.

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