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4347 Genetic Subtype Driven Changes in Bone Marrow Stromal Cells of Children with B-Cell Precursor Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 618. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemias: Biomarkers, Molecular Markers and Minimal Residual Disease in Diagnosis and Prognosis: Poster III
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
ALL, Lymphoid Leukemias, Research, Translational Research, Diseases, Lymphoid Malignancies
Monday, December 11, 2023, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Cesca Van De Ven, PhD1*, Mandy W.E. Smeets, MSc1,2*, Elisabeth M.P. Steeghs, PhD2* and Monique L. den Boer, PhD1,2

1Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology, Utrecht, Netherlands
2Department of Pediatric Oncology/Hematology, Erasmus University Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, Netherlands


We previously showed that B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL) cells hijack the normal bone marrow microenvironment to create a leukemic niche which facilitates blast cell survival and promotes drug resistance [1-3]. Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are a major component of the bone marrow microenvironment. Ex vivo, these cells provide a survival benefit to co-cultured leukemic cells and induce resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs [1, 2]. We previously showed that leukemic cells re-sensitize to chemotherapeutics ex vivo when the interaction with MSCs is disrupted [2].


We here report that patients’ BCP-ALL cells induce an Interferon (IFN)-related gene signature in patients’-derived MSCs; a.o. IFI6, MX1, and OAS3 were 4.3 to 7.7-fold upregulated in MSCs flow-sorted after co-culture with BCP-ALL cells compared to the same MSCs flow-sorted after mono-culture. BCP-ALL samples (n=15) with an ETV6-RUNX1 translocation (5 out of 8 samples) were the most potent inducers of the IFN-related gene expression signature in MSCs compared to B-other BCP-ALL (1 out of 6 samples), with IFI6 3.0-fold (p=0.03), MX1 2.6-fold (p=0.05) and OAS3 2.1-fold (p=0.04) higher in MSCs after co-culture with ETV6-RUNX1 BCP-ALL cells. Similarly, an ETV6-RUNX1 cell line (REH) also induced this IFN-response more strongly in MSCs compared to cell lines representing other BCP-ALL subtypes (SUPB15, MUTZ5, RCH-ACV and NALM6).

Addition of specific inhibitors to these ex vivo BCP-ALL and MSCs cultures, revealed that the ETV6-RUNX1 induced IFN signature was dependent on IFNα/β signaling, whereas no such effect was seen for inhibitors of IFNγ signaling. Additionally, inhibition of direct contact between BCP-ALL cells and MSCs also negatively affected the expression of some IFN responsive genes in MSCs (CXCL10 3.3-fold, p=0.02, IFI44L 1.57-fold, p=0.01 and IFITM1 1.5-fold, p=0.005) while other genes remained unaltered, suggesting that the transcriptional changes in MSCs are driven by close contact with BCP-ALL cells and not by soluble factors released by these cells or those being part of the culture medium. Normal immune cells including various populations of T-cells, monocytes, NK cells and dendritic cells did not alter the expression levels of the IFN-related genes in MSCs. We also observed that, while MSCs provide a survival benefit to (ETV6-RUNX1) BCP-ALL cells and induce resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs (prednisolone, daunorubicin, L-asparaginase) in these leukemic cells, this was not counteracted by inhibition of IFNα/β signaling.


Our data show that leukemic cells, more specifically ETV6-RUNX1 positive BCP-ALL cells, induce an IFNα/β signature in MSCs. Activation of this IFNα/β pathway in MSCs does not cause resistance of BCP-ALL cells to chemotherapeutic drugs and hence the IFNα/β activation may serve a different role, e.g., affecting the migration (recruitment and/or repelling) of specific immune cells to the leukemic bone marrow niche. Our findings warrant further studies into the role of the BCP-ALL-induced IFNα/β response in chemotaxis of healthy immune cells to create a beneficial microenvironment for BCP-ALL cells. This knowledge might point to alternative, maybe less intensive ways to eradicate leukemic cells.


  1. Aries, I.M., Hansen B.R., Koch T., van den Dungen R., Evans W.E., Pieters R., and den Boer M.L., The synergism of MCL1 and glycolysis on pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia cell survival and prednisolone resistance. Haematologica, 2013. 98(12): p. 1905-11.
  2. Polak, R., de Rooij B., Pieters R., and den Boer M.L., B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells use tunneling nanotubes to orchestrate their microenvironment. Blood, 2015. 126(21): p. 2404-14.
  3. de Rooij, B., Polak R., van den Berk L.C.J., Stalpers F., Pieters R., and den Boer M.L., Acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells create a leukemic niche without affecting the CXCR4/CXCL12 axis. Haematologica, 2017. 102(10): p. e389-e393.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

*signifies non-member of ASH