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Leukemia. 2011 Nov;25(11):1687-96. doi: 10.1038/leu.2011.137. Epub 2011 Jun 3.

Identification of a role for the nuclear receptor EAR-2 in the maintenance of clonogenic status within the leukemia cell hierarchy.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Identification of genes that regulate clonogenicity of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cells is hindered by the difficulty of isolating pure populations of cells with defined proliferative abilities. By analyzing the growth of clonal siblings in low passage cultures of the cell line OCI/AML4 we resolved this heterogeneous population into strata of distinct clonogenic potential, permitting analysis of the transcriptional signature of single cells with defined proliferative abilities. By microarray analysis we showed that the expression of the orphan nuclear receptor EAR-2 (NR2F6) is greater in leukemia cells with extensive proliferative capacity than in those that have lost proliferative ability. EAR-2 is expressed highly in long-term hematopoietic stem cells, relative to short-term hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, and is downregulated in AML cells after induction of differentiation. Exogenous expression of EAR-2 increased the growth of U937 cells and prevented the proliferative arrest associated with terminal differentiation, and blocked differentiation of U937 and 32Dcl3 cells. Conversely, silencing of EAR-2 by short-hairpin RNA initiated terminal differentiation of these cell lines. These data identify EAR-2 as an important factor in the regulation of clonogenicity and differentiation, and establish that analysis of clonal siblings allows the elucidation of differences in gene expression within the AML hierarchy.

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