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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 4;6(2):e16761. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016761.

Transient responses to NOTCH and TLX1/HOX11 inhibition in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.


To improve the treatment strategies of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL), further efforts are needed to identify therapeutic targets. Dysregulated expression of HOX-type transcription factors occurs in 30-40% of cases of T-ALL. TLX1/HOX11 is the prototypical HOX-type transcription factor. TLX1 may be an attractive therapeutic target because mice that are deficient in TLX1 are healthy. To test this possibility, we developed a conditional doxycycline-regulated mouse model of TLX1-initiated T-ALL. TLX1 induced T-ALL after ∼5-7 months with penetrance of 15-60%. Similar to human TLX1-type T-ALLs, the TLX1-induced tumors were arrested at the cortical stage of T-cell development and acquired activating NOTCH1 mutations. Inhibition of NOTCH signaling abrogated growth of cell lines derived from the TLX1-induced tumors. NOTCH inhibition also transiently delayed leukemia progression in vivo. Suppression of TLX1 expression slowed the growth of TLX1 tumor cell lines. Suppression of TLX1 in vivo also transiently delayed leukemia progression. We have shown that TLX1 functions as a T-cell oncogene that is active during both the induction and the maintenance phases of leukemia. However, the effect of suppressing NOTCH or TLX1 was transient. The tumors eventually "escaped" from inhibition. These data imply that the biological pathways and gene sets impacted by TLX1 and NOTCH have largely lost their importance in the fully established tumor. They have been supplanted by stronger oncogenic pathways. Although TLX1 or NOTCH inhibitors may not be effective as single agents, they may still contribute to combination therapy for TLX1-driven acute leukemia.

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