Low expression of pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins sets the apoptotic threshold in Waldenström macroglobulinemia

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Abstract

Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) is a proliferative disorder of IgM-secreting, lymphoplasmacytoid cells that inhabit the lymph nodes and bone marrow. The disease carries a high prevalence of activating mutations in MyD88 (91%) and CXCR4 (28%). Because signaling through these pathways leads to Bcl-xL induction, we examined Bcl-2 family expression in WM patients and cell lines. Unlike other B-lymphocyte-derived malignancies, which become dependent on expression of anti-apoptotic proteins to counter expression of pro-apoptotic proteins, WM samples expressed both pro- and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins at low levels similar to their normal B-cell and plasma cell counterparts. Three WM cell lines expressed pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members Bim or Bax and Bak at low levels, which determined their sensitivity to inducers of intrinsic apoptosis. In two cell lines, miR-155 upregulation, which is common in WM, was responsible for the inhibition of FOXO3a and Bim expression. Both antagonizing miR-155 to induce Bim and proteasome inhibition increased the sensitivity to ABT-737 in these lines indicating a lowering of the apoptotic threshold. In this manner, treatments that increase pro-apoptotic protein expression increase the efficacy of agents treated in combination in addition to direct killing.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Stephen Ansell and Kelvin Lee for cell lines and reagents. This work was supported by: R01 CA127910 and R01 CA129968 as well as funding from the TJ Martell Foundation (LHB), the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (AAC), the International Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia (AAC), and the Comité du Septentrion de la Ligue contre le Cancer (XL). LHB is a GRA Distinguished Cancer Scientist. ABT-737 and ABT-199 were a generous gift of Abbvie, (North Chicago, IL, USA).

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Correspondence to L H Boise.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on the Oncogene website

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