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Blood. 2013 Aug 29;122(9):1587-98. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-06-440230. Epub 2013 Jul 23.

Requirement for antiapoptotic MCL-1 in the survival of BCR-ABL B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Department of Biochemistry, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105-3678, USA.


The response of Philadelphia chromosome (Ph(+)) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) to treatment by BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) has been disappointing, often resulting in short remissions typified by rapid outgrowth of drug-resistant clones. Therefore, new treatments are needed to improve outcomes for Ph(+) ALL patients. In a mouse model of Ph(+) B-lineage ALL, MCL-1 expression is dysregulated by the BCR-ABL oncofusion protein, and TKI treatment results in loss of MCL-1 expression prior to the induction of apoptosis, suggesting that MCL-1 may be an essential prosurvival molecule. To test this hypothesis, we developed a mouse model in which conditional allele(s) of Mcl-1 can be deleted either during leukemia transformation or later after the establishment of leukemia. We report that endogenous MCL-1's antiapoptotic activity promotes survival during BCR-ABL transformation and in established BCR-ABL(+) leukemia. This requirement for MCL-1 can be overcome by overexpression of other antiapoptotic molecules. We further demonstrate that strategies to inhibit MCL-1 expression potentiate the proapoptotic action of BCL-2 inhibitors in both mouse and human BCR-ABL(+) leukemia cell lines. Thus, strategies focused on antagonizing MCL-1 function and expression would be predicted to be effective therapeutic strategies.

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