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Blood. 2012 Sep 13;120(11):2214-24. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-10-382986. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

L-Leucine improves the anemia and developmental defects associated with Diamond-Blackfan anemia and del(5q) MDS by activating the mTOR pathway.

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Pediatric Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Haploinsufficiency of ribosomal proteins (RPs) has been proposed to be the common basis for the anemia observed in Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA) and myelodysplastic syndrome with loss of chromosome 5q [del(5q) MDS]. We have modeled DBA and del(5q) MDS in zebrafish using antisense morpholinos to rps19 and rps14, respectively, and have demonstrated that, as in humans, haploinsufficient levels of these proteins lead to a profound anemia. To address the hypothesis that RP loss results in impaired mRNA translation, we treated Rps19 and Rps14-deficient embryos with the amino acid L-leucine, a known activator of mRNA translation. This resulted in a striking improvement of the anemia associated with RP loss. We confirmed our findings in primary human CD34⁺ cells, after shRNA knockdown of RPS19 and RPS14. Furthermore, we showed that loss of Rps19 or Rps14 activates the mTOR pathway, and this is accentuated by L-leucine in both Rps19 and Rps14 morphants. This effect could be abrogated by rapamycin suggesting that mTOR signaling may be responsible for the improvement in anemia associated with L-leucine. Our studies support the rationale for ongoing clinical trials of L-leucine as a therapeutic agent for DBA, and potentially for patients with del(5q) MDS.

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