BCR/ABL induces chromosomal instability after genotoxic stress and alters the cell death threshold.

PMID 19020542


Earlier reports have suggested that the BCR/ABL oncogene, associated with chronic myeloid leukemia, induces a mutator phenotype; however, it is unclear whether this leads to long-term changes in chromosomes and whether the phenotype is found in primary chronic myelogeneous leukemia (CML) cells. We have addressed both these issues. BCR/ABL-expressing cell lines show an increase in DNA breaks after treatment with etoposide as compared to control cells. However, although BCR/ABL-expressing cell lines have an equivalent cell survival, they have an increase in chromosomal translocations after DNA repair as compared to control cells. This demonstrates that BCR/ABL expression decreases the fidelity of DNA repair. To see whether this is true in primary CML samples, normal CD34+ progenitor cells and CML progenitor cells were treated with etoposide. CML progenitor cells have equivalent survival but have an increase in DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Spectral karyotyping demonstrates new chromosomal translocations in CML cells, but not normal progenitor cells, consistent with error-prone DNA repair. Taken together, these data demonstrate that BCR/ABL enhances the accumulation of DSBs and alters the apoptotic threshold in CML leading to error-prone DNA repair.