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2661 The GPR68/BCL2 Axis Remodels Metabolism in AML By Relocating Calcium

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 616. Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Novel Therapy, excluding Transplantation: Poster II
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
apoptosis, Biological Processes, pathways
Sunday, December 8, 2019, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM
Hall B, Level 2 (Orange County Convention Center)

Xiaofei He, B.S.1*, Caleb Hawkins, B.S.1*, Lauren Lawley, B.S.1*, Mark Wunderlich, MS2*, Benjamin Mizukawa, MD3,4, Xiang-ming Zha, Ph.D.5*, Stephanie Halene, MD 6 and Jing Fang, MD, PhD7

1Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences, University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Columbia, SC
2Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
3Oncology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
4Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
5Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of South Alabama College of Medicine, Mobile, AL
6Yale Univ. School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
7University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Columbia, SC

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) mainly engage glycolysis while leukemia stem cells (LSC), such as in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), heavily rely on mitochondrial (Mt) respiration (i.e. oxidative phosphorylation, OxPhos) to fuel energy. Growing evidence suggests this metabolic reprogramming confers therapeutic vulnerabilities in AML. BCL2 is overexpressed in LSC from AML patients, while BCL2 inhibitors, such as venetoclax (VEN), have been shown to suppress OxPhos in LSC and to eradicate LSC. In clinical practice, half of the patients fail to respond to VEN. VEN is a costly medication and patients who are resistant to VEN forgo alternative treatment at that time. Prediction of the response to VEN and strategies to circumvent resistance are urgently needed. BCL2 is shown to increase Mt Ca2+ levels ([Ca2+]m), which enhance OxPhos through activation of the Ca2+-sensitive dehydrogenases within the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. G protein-coupled receptor 68 (GPR68) is a proton sensor, activating phospholipase C that leads to releasing of Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the cytosol and elevation of cytosolic Ca2+ levels ([Ca2+]c). This prompted us to examine the cooperative effect of GPR68 and BCL2 on the Ca2+/OxPhos pathway in AML, and particularly in LSC.

Expression of leukemic oncogenes (i.e. MLL-AF9 and HRASG12D) in mouse hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, such as Lineage-Sca-1+cKit+ (LSK) cells or granulocyte-monocyte progenitor cells, promote leukemogenesis as evidenced by serial colony formation in vitro and leukemia development in vivo. We found significantly reduced colonies in oncogene-expressing LSK cells from Gpr68 knockout mice compared to wild type mice. Deletion of Gpr68 reduced [Ca2+]c in oncogene-expressing LSK cells. We next examined the function of GPR68 in human AML cell lines. Knockdown of GPR68 with shRNA reduced cell growth and colony formation, and induced apoptosis in AML cells. Knockdown of GPR68 also reduced [Ca2+]c and Mt membrane potential (Δψm) in AML cells, indicating reduced Mt OxPhos. These results suggest that GPR68 regulates the Ca2+/OxPhos pathway in AML cells.

We next examined the cooperative effect of GPR68 and BCL2 by jointly inhibiting their activities with pharmacological agents (i.e. GPR68 antibody and VEN, respectively) in AML cell lines and AML patient-derived xenograft models. Of note, the expression of GPR68 was positively correlated with the sensitivity to VEN in AML cells. For AML cells that were resistant to VEN, GPR68 antibody but not an unrelated antibody increased the sensitivity to VEN by enhancing apoptosis, indicating that GPR68 and BCL2 co-regulate AML cell survival. We next examined the mechanism of this synthetic lethality by measuring cellular respiration. Single treatment with VEN reduced Δψm, ATP production and O2 consumption in AML cells. Cotreatment with VEN and GPR68 antibody further reduced Δψm, ATP production and O2 consumption in AML cells, indicating that GPR68 and BCL2 co-regulate Mt OxPhos. Given that GPR68 releases Ca2+ from ER to cytosol, while BCL2 maintains [Ca2+]m by inhibiting its extrusion from Mt, we hypothesize that the GPR68/BCL2 axis relocates Ca2+ from ER to Mt. As expected, treatment with GPR68 antibody reduced [Ca2+]c. Cotreatment with VEN and GPR68 antibody increased [Ca2+]c, indicating enhanced extrusion of Ca2+ from Mt to cytosol by VEN. Consistently, cotreatment with VEN and GPR68 antibody reduced the activity of isocitrate dehydrogenase, the rate limiting enzyme in the TCA cycle, in AML cells. These results indicate that GPR68 and BCL2 co-regulate the Ca2+/OxPhos pathway in AML cells and that co-inhibition of GPR68 and BCL2 may enhance lethality and overcome VEN resistance.

In summary, our study suggests that the GPR68/BCL2 axis co-regulates AML cell survival by relocating Ca2+ from ER to Mt thus enhancing Mt OxPhos, and that disruption of the GPR68/BCL2 axis provides a novel therapeutic strategy to overcome resistance to VEN.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

*signifies non-member of ASH