FLT3 is a receptor tyrosine kinase that may play a role in a significant proportion of leukemias. In addition to being aberrantly expressed in acute leukemias, activating mutations of the FLT3 gene have been found in patients with AML, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and more rarely, ALL. Internal tandem duplications (ITDs) of the FLT3 gene have been detected in 17-34% of patients with AML and portend a poor prognosis for these patients. FLT3 receptors containing ITD mutations (FLT3/ITDs) are constitutively activated in the absence of FLT3 ligand (FL) stimulation leading to the activation of downstream signaling proteins, including ERK and STAT 5. FLT3 activity, therefore, is a logical target for therapeutic intervention. AG1296 is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor of the tyrphostin class that shows inhibitory activity for wild-type FLT3, in addition to the PDGF and c-KIT receptors. We examined the inhibitory effects of AG1296 on FLT3/ITDs isolated from AML patients in the IL-3-dependent cell line, Ba/F3, as well as in primary leukemia samples from AML patients. Immunoprecipitation and immunoblotting analyses demonstrated that FLT3/ITDs were constitutively phosphorylated in the absence of FL. The auto-phosphorylation of FLT3/ITDs was inhibited by AG1296 with an IC(50) of approximately 1 microM. FLT3/ITDs were associated with constitutive phosphorylation of ERK, STAT 5A, STAT 5B, CBL, VAV and SHP2 in Ba/F3 cells. The phosphorylation of these downstream signaling molecules was suppressed in a dose-responsive fashion by AG1296. AG1296 inhibited IL-3 independent growth and induced apoptosis in Ba/F3 cells transformed by FLT3/ITDs. AG1296 also inhibited FLT3 auto-phosphorylation, and induced a cytotoxic effect, in primary AML cells. These findings suggest that inhibiting the activity of FLT3 may have a therapeutic value in some leukemias expressing FLT3/ITDs.