Cell death & disease

All-trans retinoic acid and arsenic trioxide fail to derepress the monocytic differentiation driver Irf8 in acute promyelocytic leukemia cells.

PMID 28492552


All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and/or arsenic trioxide (ATO) administration leads to granulocytic maturation and/or apoptosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cells mainly by targeting promyelocytic leukemia/retinoic acid receptor alpha (PML/RARα). Yet, ~10-15% of APL patients are not cured by ATRA- and ATO-based therapies, and a potential failure of ATRA and ATO in completely reversing PML/RARα-driven oncogenic alterations has not been comprehensively examined. Here we characterized the in vivo primary responses of dysregulated genes in APL cells treated with ATRA and ATO using a GFP-labeled APL model. Although induced granulocytic differentiation of APL cells was evident after ATRA or ATO administration, the expression of the majority of dysregulated genes in the c-Kit(+) APL progenitors was not consistently corrected. Irf8, whose expression increased along with spontaneous differentiation of the APL progenitors in vivo, represented such a PML/RARα-dysregulated gene that was refractory to ATRA/ATO signaling. Interestingly, Irf8 induction, but not its knockdown, decreased APL leukemogenic potential through driving monocytic maturation. Thus, we reveal that certain PML/RARα-dysregulated genes that are refractory to ATRA/ATO signaling are potentially crucial regulators of the immature status and leukemogenic potential of APL cells, which can be exploited for the development of new therapeutic strategies for ATRA/ATO-resistant APL cases.