Background: Glucocorticoids (GCs) cause apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in lymphoid cells and constitute a central component in the therapy of lymphoid malignancies, most notably childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). PFKFB2 (6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-biphosphatase-2), a kinase controlling glucose metabolism, was identified by us previously as a GC response gene in expression profiling analyses performed in children with ALL during initial systemic GC mono-therapy. Since deregulation of glucose metabolism has been implicated in apoptosis induction, this gene and its relatives, PFKFB1, 3, and 4, were further analyzed.
Methods: Gene expression analyses of isolated lymphoblasts were performed on Affymetrix HGU133 Plus 2.0 microarrays. GCRMA normalized microarray data were analyzed using R-Bioconductor packages version 2.5. Functional gene analyses of PFKFB2-15A and -15B isoforms were performed by conditional gene over-expression experiments in the GC-sensitive T-ALL model CCRF-CEM.
Results: Expression analyses in additional ALL children, non-leukemic individuals and leukemic cell lines confirmed frequent PFKFB2 induction by GC in most systems sensitive to GC-induced apoptosis, particularly T-ALL cells. The 3 other family members, in contrast, were either absent or only weakly expressed (PFKFB1 and 4) or not induced by GC (PFKFB3). Conditional PFKFB2 over-expression in the CCRF-CEM T-ALL in vitro model revealed that its 2 splice variants (PFKFB2-15A and PFKFB2-15B) had no detectable effect on cell survival. Moreover, neither PFKFB2 splice variant significantly affected sensitivity to, or kinetics of, GC-induced apoptosis.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that, at least in the model system investigated, PFKFB2 is not an essential upstream regulator of the anti-leukemic effects of GC.