Bone marrow stromal cell-derived vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) rather than chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cell-derived VEGF is essential for the apoptotic resistance of cultured CLL cells

Mol Med. 2011;17(7-8):619-27. doi: 10.2119/molmed.2010.00210. Epub 2011 Apr 14.


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells feature a pronounced apoptotic resistance. The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) possesses a role in this apoptotic block, although underlying functional mechanisms and the involvement of the microenvironment are unclear. In this study, the VEGF status in CLL was assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunofluorescence. VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) phosphorylation was determined flow cytometrically and by immunofluorescence. For co-culture, CLL cells were cultivated on a monolayer of the bone marrow-derived stromal cell (BMSC) line HS5. Secreted VEGF was neutralized using the monoclonal antibody mAb293 (R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN, USA). To block protein secretion, we used Brefeldin A. VEGF was downregulated in BMSCs by small interfering RNA (siRNA), and we assessed survival by annexin V-fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)/propidium iodide (PI) staining. CLL cells express and secrete VEGF and possess phosphorylated VEGFR2. This positive VEGF status is not sufficient to prevent spontaneous apoptosis in vitro. Coculture with BMSCs, which secrete vast amounts of VEGF, maintains in vitro CLL cell survival. Blockage of secreted VEGF using the monoclonal antibody mAb293 significantly reduced the survival support for cocultured CLL cells. Both general blockage of protein secretion by Brefeldin A in BMSCs, but not in CLL cells, and siRNA-mediated downregulation of VEGF in BMSCs, significantly reduced the coculture-mediated survival support for CLL cells. It can be concluded that BMSC-derived proteins and VEGF, in particular, but not CLL cell-derived VEGF, is essentially involved in the coculture-mediated survival support for CLL cells. Hence, therapeutic targeting of VEGF signaling might be a promising approach to overcome the apoptotic resistance CLL cells feature within their natural microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism*
  • Brefeldin A / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • RNA Interference
  • Stromal Cells / cytology
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / immunology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Brefeldin A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2