Purpose: Resistance to glucocorticoid (GC) is a significant problem in the clinical management of lymphoid malignancies. Addressing this issue via a mechanistic understanding of relevant signaling pathways is more likely to yield positive outcomes.
Experimental design: We used gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA), multiple genetic models of gain and loss of function in B-cell lymphoma cell lines, in vitro and in vivo, and primary patient samples to characterize a novel relationship between the cyclic AMP/phosphodiesterase 4B (cAMP/PDE4B), AKT/mTOR activities, and GC responses.
Results: Starting from the GSEA, we found that overexpression of the PDE4B in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) impinge on the same genes/pathways that are abnormally active in GC-resistant tumors. We used genetically modified cell lines to show that PDE4B modulates cAMP inhibitory activities toward the AKT/mTOR pathway and defines GC resistance in DLBCL. In agreement with these data, pharmacologic inhibition of PDE4 in a xenograft model of human lymphoma unleashed cAMP effects, inhibited AKT, and restored GC sensitivity. Finally, we used primary DLBCL samples to confirm the clinical relevance and biomarker potential of AKT/mTOR regulation by PDE4B.
Conclusions: Together, these data mechanistically elucidated how cAMP modulates GC responses in lymphocytes, defined AKT as the principal transducer of the growth inhibitory effects of cAMP in B cells, and allowed the formulation of genomics-guided clinical trials that test the ability of PDE4 inhibitors to restore GC sensitivity and improve the outcome of patients with B-cell malignancies.