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Oncogene. 2006 Oct 5;25(45):6092-100. Epub 2006 May 1.

Lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma in mice overexpressing the Mer (MerTK) receptor tyrosine kinase.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO 80045, USA.


Mer (MerTK) is a receptor tyrosine kinase important in platelet aggregation, as well as macrophage cytokine secretion and clearance of apoptotic cells. Mer is not normally expressed in thymocytes or lymphocytes; however, ectopic Mer RNA transcript and protein expression is found in a subset of acute lymphoblastic leukemia cell lines and patient samples, suggesting a role in leukemogenesis. To investigate the oncogenic potential of Mer in vivo, we created a transgenic mouse line (Mer(Tg)) that expresses Mer in the hematopoietic lineage under control of the Vav promoter. Ectopic expression and activation of the transgenic Mer protein was demonstrated in lymphocytes and thymocytes of the Mer(Tg) mice. At 12-24 months of age, greater than 55% of the Mer(Tg) mice, compared to 12% of the wild type, developed adenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, and circulating lymphoblasts. Histopathological analysis and flow cytometry were consistent with T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma. Mer may contribute to leukemogenesis by activation of Akt and ERK1/2 anti-apoptotic signals, which were upregulated in Mer(Tg) mice. Additionally, a significant survival advantage was noted in Mer(Tg) lymphocytes compared to wild-type lymphocytes after dexamethasone treatment. These data suggest that Mer plays a cooperative role in leukemogenesis and may be an effective target for biologically based leukemia/lymphoma therapy.

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