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J Clin Invest. 2013 Jun;123(6):2395-407. doi: 10.1172/JCI66553. Epub 2013 May 8.

CXCR4 downregulation of let-7a drives chemoresistance in acute myeloid leukemia.

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Section of Molecular Hematology and Therapy, Department of Leukemia, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


We examined the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in targeting the stromal-derived factor 1α/CXCR4 (SDF-1α/CXCR4) axis to overcome chemoresistance of AML cells. Microarray analysis of OCI-AML3 cells revealed that the miRNA let-7a was downregulated by SDF-1α-mediated CXCR4 activation and increased by CXCR4 inhibition. Overexpression of let-7a in AML cell lines was associated with decreased c-Myc and BCL-XL protein expression and enhanced chemosensitivity, both in vitro and in vivo. We identified the transcription factor Yin Yang 1 (YY1) as a link between SDF-1α/CXCR4 signaling and let-7a, as YY1 was upregulated by SDF-1α and downregulated by treatment with a CXCR4 antagonist. ChIP assay confirmed the binding of YY1 to unprocessed let-7a DNA fragments, and treatment with YY1 shRNA increased let-7a expression. In primary human AML samples, high CXCR4 expression was associated with low let-7a levels. Xenografts of primary human AML cells engineered to overexpress let-7a exhibited enhanced sensitivity to cytarabine, resulting in greatly extended survival of immunodeficient mice. Based on these data, we propose that CXCR4 induces chemoresistance by downregulating let-7a to promote YY1-mediated transcriptional activation of MYC and BCLXL in AML cells.

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