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BMC Genomics. 2011 Nov 17;12:565. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-12-565.

Evaluation of the NOD/SCID xenograft model for glucocorticoid-regulated gene expression in childhood B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Children's Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research, Lowy Cancer Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia.



Glucocorticoids such as prednisolone and dexamethasone are critical drugs used in multi-agent chemotherapy protocols used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and response to glucocorticoids is highly predictive of outcome. The NOD/SCID xenograft mouse model of ALL is a clinically relevant model in which the mice develop a systemic leukemia which retains the fundamental biological characteristics of the original disease. Here we report a study evaluating the NOD/SCID xenograft mouse model to investigate glucocorticoid-induced gene expression. Cells from a glucocorticoid-sensitive xenograft derived from a child with B-cell precursor ALL were inoculated into NOD/SCID mice. When highly engrafted the mice were randomized into groups of 4 to receive dexamethasone 15 mg/kg by intraperitoneal injection or vehicle control. Leukemia cells were harvested from mice spleens at 0, 8, 24 or 48 hours thereafter, and gene expression analyzed on Illumina WG-6_V3 chips, comparing all groups to time 0 hours.


The 8 hour dexamethasone-treated timepoint had the highest number of significantly differentially expressed genes, with fewer observed at the 24 and 48 hour timepoints, and with minimal changes seen across the time-matched controls. When compared to publicly available datasets of glucocorticoid-induced gene expression from an in vitro cell line study and from an in vivo study of patients with ALL, at the level of pathways, expression changes in the 8 hour xenograft samples showed a similar response to patients treated with glucocorticoids. Replicate analysis revealed that at the 8 hour timepoint, a dataset with high signal and differential expression, using data from 3 replicates instead of 4 resulted in excellent recovery scores of > 0.9. However at other timepoints with less signal very poor recovery scores were obtained with 3 replicates.


The NOD/SCID xenograft mouse model provides a reproducible experimental system in which to investigate clinically-relevant mechanisms of drug-induced gene regulation in ALL; the 8 hour timepoint provides the highest number of significantly differentially expressed genes; time-matched controls are redundant and excellent recovery scores can be obtained with 3 replicates.

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