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Leukemia. 2010 Sep;24(9):1588-98. doi: 10.1038/leu.2010.152. Epub 2010 Jul 29.

Aberrant O-GlcNAcylation characterizes chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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Division of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Research Institute, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


O-linked N-Acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) post-translational modifications originate from the activity of the hexosamine pathway, and are known to affect intracellular signaling processes. As aberrant responses to microenvironmental signals are a feature of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), O-GlcNAcylated protein levels were measured in primary CLL cells. In contrast to normal circulating and tonsillar B cells, CLL cells expressed high levels of O-GlcNAcylated proteins, including p53, c-myc and Akt. O-GlcNAcylation in CLL cells increased following activation with cytokines and through toll-like receptors (TLRs), or after loading with hexosamine pathway substrates. However, high baseline O-GlcNAc levels were associated with impaired signaling responses to TLR agonists, chemotherapeutic agents, B cell receptor crosslinking and mitogens. Indolent and aggressive clinical behavior of CLL cells were found to correlate with higher and lower O-GlcNAc levels, respectively. These findings suggest that intracellular O-GlcNAcylation is associated with the pathogenesis of CLL, which could potentially have therapeutic implications.

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