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1 Loss of LKB1/STK11 Facilitates Leukemic Progression of the Myeloproliferative Neoplasms

Program: General Sessions
Session: Plenary Scientific Session
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
AML, Diseases, Biological Processes, MPN, Myeloid Malignancies, pathogenesis, pathways
Sunday, December 6, 2020, 7:00 AM-9:00 AM

Christian Marinaccio, MSc1*, Praveen K Suraneni, PhD1*, Hamza Celik, PhD2, Andrew Volk, PhD3, Jeremy Q. Wen, MD, PhD4*, Te Ling, PhD4*, Terra Lasho, PhD5, Richard P. Koche, PhD6*, Christopher Famulare, MS7*, Brady L. Stein, MD8, Sandeep Gurbuxani, MBBS, PhD9, Ronald Hoffman, MD10,11, Naseema Gangat, MBBS5, Navdeep Chandel12*, Ross L. Levine, MD13, Raajit K. Rampal, MD, PhD14, Grant Challen15, Ayalew Tefferi, MD5 and John D. Crispino, PhD16

1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
2Washington University in St Louis - School of Medicine, ST LOUIS, MO
3Division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Cincinnati, OH
4Division of Experimental Hematology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN
5Division of Hematology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
6Center for Epigenetics Research, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, NY
7Center for Hematologic Malignancies, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY
8Hematology/Oncology, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
9Department of Pathology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
10Tisch Cancer Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
11MPN Research Consortium, New York, NY
12Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
13Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY
14Leukemia Service, Department of Medicine, Clinical Director, Leukemia Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY
15Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO
16Experimental Hematology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis

Nearly 20% of patients with myelofibrosis progress to blast phase disease; an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia. Although previous studies have implicated loss of TP53 or JARID2 in progression, by and large the genetic events that lead to conversion to blast phase remain unknown. To identify genes whose loss drives progression, we performed a focused CRISPR/Cas9 screen in which murine Jak2V617F bone marrow cells expressing Cas9 were transduced with two separate sgRNA libraries of known tumor suppressor genes and subjected to colony replating assays. Transduction of one of the two libraries led to serial replating and enhanced self-renewal of the Jak2V617F cells. Subsequent DNA sequencing revealed enrichment of all four guides targeting STK11, the gene that encodes LKB1 which regulates a number of key cellular pathways including energy utilization by activation of AMPK. To confirm that loss of Stk11 is the event that leads to increased clonogenicity, we collected cells from Jak2V617F/Vav-Cre+ and control Vav-Cre+ mice and induced Stk11 knockout by electroporating Cas9-Stk11 sgRNA ribonucleoprotein complexes. Consistent with the screening results, only Jak2V617F Vav-Cre+ cells with Cas9-Stk11 sgRNA showed serial replating. To determine whether Stk11 is required for growth of cells with a different driver of enhanced JAK/STAT signaling, we doubly transduced Stk11 homozygous floxed bone marrow cells with MPLW515L-mCherry and Cre-GFP to delete Stk11. As expected, cells with both MPLW515L and Cre recombinase showed enhanced self-renewal, while singly infected control cells failed to replate. These results demonstrate that activation of JAK/STAT signaling can overcome the requirement for Stk11 in normal hematopoiesis and suggest that STK11 loss may be a strong driver of malignant transformation in combination with enhanced JAK-STAT signaling.

We next investigated the mechanism by which loss of STK11 cooperates with enhanced JAK/STAT signaling to promote leukemia. RNA-sequencing of wild-type, Stk11+/+/ MPLW515L, and Stk11-/-/MPLW515L hematopoietic cells revealed enrichment of a number of pathways related to hypoxia, oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondrial translation in cells lacking LKB1. Western blot assays confirmed activation of mTOR signaling as well as HIF1a stabilization and pathway activation, both of which have been reported to lie downstream of LKB1 loss.

We also performed a number of studies to determine the relevance of reduced LKB1 expression to leukemic progression. First, we induced deletion of Stk11 in mice that were transplanted with HSPCs expressing MPLW515L after development of the MPN phenotype. Loss of Stk11 caused a rapid lethality that was associated with enhanced bone marrow fibrosis and osteosclerosis. We also observed accumulation of leukemic blasts in small clusters consistent with AML transformation arising in the spent phase MPN. Additionally, we deleted STK11 by CRISPR/Cas9 in primary MPN patient samples and monitored their engraftment in immunocompromised mice. We observed enhanced engraftment and increased reticulin fibrosis and osteosclerosis in mice that received the STK11 edited cells compared to those with non-targeted sgRNA. Third, we compared the expression of STK11 in paired blast and chronic phase myelofibrosis patient samples by RT-PCR. Consistent with the hypothesis that loss of STK11 facilitates leukemia, we found that its expression was decreased by more than 50% in five of seven paired post-MPN AML patient samples, with two having STK11 levels below 20%. We further validated downregulation of LKB1 by immunohistochemistry on paired chronic and blast phase MPN specimens and observed little staining in the blast phase specimens. Finally, to further show that the mechanism of in vitro enhanced self-renewal is related to leukemia progression, we stained the paired marrows for HIF1a and saw a dramatic increase in staining at the AML phase. We also analyzed RNA-seq data of paired chronic versus blast phase MPNs specimens and observed that there is a strong congruence of enriched pathways that are associated with the in vitro mouse HSPC phenotype and the human blast phase progression, such as oxidative phosphorylation and hypoxia.

Together, our study demonstrates that loss of LKB1/STK11 promotes transformation of cells with activated JAK/STAT signaling and that STK11 is a prominent candidate tumor suppressor gene in post-MPN AML.

Disclosures: Gurbuxani: UpToDate: Honoraria. Hoffman: Dompe: Research Funding; Protagonist: Consultancy; Abbvie: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Forbius: Consultancy; Novartis: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Levine: Astellas: Consultancy; Amgen: Honoraria; Gilead: Honoraria; Qiagen: Current equity holder in publicly-traded company, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Morphosys: Consultancy; Novartis: Consultancy; Prelude Therapeutics: Research Funding; Loxo: Current equity holder in private company, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Imago: Current equity holder in private company, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; C4 Therapeutics: Current equity holder in private company, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Isoplexis: Current equity holder in private company, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Roche: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Lilly: Consultancy, Honoraria; Janssen: Consultancy. Rampal: Blueprint: Consultancy; Jazz Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy; Constellation: Research Funding; Incyte: Consultancy, Research Funding; Celgene: Consultancy; Galecto: Consultancy; Promedior: Consultancy; Pharmaessentia: Consultancy; CTI Biopharma: Consultancy; Stemline: Consultancy, Research Funding; Abbvie: Consultancy.

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