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Front Pharmacol. 2017 Apr 26;8:204. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00204. eCollection 2017.

Proteomic Analysis Reveals Autophagy as Pro-Survival Pathway Elicited by Long-Term Exposure with 5-Azacitidine in High-Risk Myelodysplasia.

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Divisione di Ematologia, Azienda Ospedaliera Policlinico UniversitariaCatania, Italy.
Scuola Superiore di CataniaCatania, Italy.
Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, George Mason UniversityManassas, VA, USA.


Azacytidine (5-AZA) is the standard first-choice treatment for high-risk myelodysplasia (MDS) patients. However, the clinical outcome for those patients who interrupt treatment or whose disease failed to respond is very poor. In order to identify the cellular pathways that are modified by long-term exposure to 5-AZA, we evaluated key proteins associated with the autophagy pathway by reverse-phase microarray (RPPA). Comparing bone marrow mononucleated cells (BMMCs) obtained from 20 newly-diagnosed patients and after four 5-AZA cycles we found an increased autophagy signaling. We then evaluated ex-vivo the effect of the combination of 5-AZA with autophagy inhibitors chloroquine (CQ) and leupeptin. Since 5-AZA and CQ showed synergism due to an increase of basal autophagy after 5-AZA exposure, we adopted a sequential treatment treating BMMCs with 5 μM 5-AZA for 72 h followed by 10 μM CQ for 24 h and found increased apoptosis, associated to a reduction of G2M phase and increase in G0-G1 phase. Long-term exposure to 5-AZA induced the reduction of the autophagic marker SQSTM1/p62, reversible by CQ or leupeptin exposure. In conclusion, we identified autophagy as a compensatory pathway occurring in MDS-BM after long-term exposure to 5-AZA and we provided evidences that a sequential treatment of 5-AZA followed by CQ could improve 5-AZA efficacy, providing novel insight for tailored therapy in MDS patients progressing after 5-AZA therapy.


autophagy; azacytidine; myelodysplastic syndrome

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