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Leukemia. 2015 Dec;29(12):2328-37. doi: 10.1038/leu.2015.196. Epub 2015 Jul 23.

β-Catenin is required for intrinsic but not extrinsic BCR-ABL1 kinase-independent resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in chronic myeloid leukemia.

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Huntsman Cancer Institute, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Beijing Tsinghua Chang Gung Hospital, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute, Portland, OR, USA.
Division of Hematology and Hematologic Malignancies, Department of Internal Medicine, Huntsman Cancer Institute, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.


Activation of nuclear β-catenin and expression of its transcriptional targets promotes chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) progression, tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) resistance, and leukemic stem cell self-renewal. We report that nuclear β-catenin has a role in leukemia cell-intrinsic but not -extrinsic BCR-ABL1 kinase-independent TKI resistance. Upon imatinib inhibition of BCR-ABL1 kinase activity, β-catenin expression was maintained in intrinsically resistant cells grown in suspension culture and sensitive cells cultured in direct contact (DC) with bone marrow (BM) stromal cells. Thus, TKI resistance uncouples β-catenin expression from BCR-ABL1 kinase activity. In β-catenin reporter assays, intrinsically resistant cells showed increased transcriptional activity versus parental TKI-sensitive controls, and this was associated with restored expression of β-catenin target genes. In contrast, DC with BM stromal cells promoted TKI resistance, but had little effects on Lef/Tcf reporter activity and no consistent effects on cytoplasmic β-catenin levels, arguing against a role for β-catenin in extrinsic TKI resistance. N-cadherin or H-cadherin blocking antibodies abrogated DC-based resistance despite increasing Lef/Tcf reporter activity, suggesting that factors other than β-catenin contribute to extrinsic, BM-derived TKI resistance. Our data indicate that, while nuclear β-catenin enhances survival of intrinsically TKI-resistant CML progenitors, it is not required for extrinsic resistance mediated by the BM microenvironment.

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