Oncogenic Kras initiates leukemia in hematopoietic stem cells

PLoS Biol. 2009 Mar 17;7(3):e59. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000059.


How oncogenes modulate the self-renewal properties of cancer-initiating cells is incompletely understood. Activating KRAS and NRAS mutations are among the most common oncogenic lesions detected in human cancer, and occur in myeloproliferative disorders (MPDs) and leukemias. We investigated the effects of expressing oncogenic Kras(G12D) from its endogenous locus on the proliferation and tumor-initiating properties of murine hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. MPD could be initiated by Kras(G12D) expression in a highly restricted population enriched for hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), but not in common myeloid progenitors. Kras(G12D) HSCs demonstrated a marked in vivo competitive advantage over wild-type cells. Kras(G12D) expression also increased the fraction of proliferating HSCs and reduced the overall size of this compartment. Transplanted Kras(G12D) HSCs efficiently initiated acute T-lineage leukemia/lymphoma, which was associated with secondary Notch1 mutations in thymocytes. We conclude that MPD-initiating activity is restricted to the HSC compartment in Kras(G12D) mice, and that distinct self-renewing populations with cooperating mutations emerge during cancer progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Leukemia, Experimental / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Experimental / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myeloproliferative Disorders / metabolism
  • Myeloproliferative Disorders / pathology
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / pathology


  • Hras protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)