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Blood. 2003 Feb 1;101(3):1141-8. Epub 2002 Oct 3.

CCAAT/Enhancer binding proteins repress the leukemic phenotype of acute myeloid leukemia.

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  • 1Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0128, USA.


CCAAT/enhancer binding proteins (C/EBPs) are a family of factors that regulate cell growth and differentiation. These factors, particularly C/EBPalpha and C/EBPepsilon, have important roles in normal myelopoiesis. In addition, loss of C/EBP activity appears to have a role in the pathogenesis of myeloid disorders including acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of AML in which a role for C/EBPs has been postulated. In almost all cases of APL, a promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor alpha (PML-RARalpha) fusion protein is expressed as a result of a t(15;17)(q22;q12) chromosomal translocation. PML-RARalpha inhibits expression of C/EBPepsilon, whereas all-trans retinoic acid (tRA), a differentiating agent to which APL is particularly susceptible, induces C/EBPepsilon expression. PML-RARalpha may also inhibit C/EBPalpha activity. Thus, the effects of PML-RARalpha on C/EBPs may contribute to both the development of leukemia and the unique sensitivity of APL to tRA. We tested the hypothesis that increasing the activity of C/EBPs would revert the leukemic phenotype. C/EBPalpha and C/EBPepsilon were introduced into the FDC-P1 myeloid cell line and into leukemic cells from PML-RARA transgenic mice. C/EBP factors suppressed growth and induced partial differentiation in vitro. In vivo, enhanced expression of C/EBPs prolonged survival. By using a tamoxifen-responsive version of C/EBPepsilon, we observed that C/EBPepsilon could mimic the effect of tRA, driving neutrophilic differentiation in leukemic animals. Our results support the hypothesis that induction of C/EBP activity is a critical effect of tRA in APL. Furthermore, our findings suggest that targeted modulation of C/EBP activities could provide a new approach to therapy of AML.

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