Small molecule inhibitors of protein kinases have emerged as a major class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of hematological malignancies. Both in vitro studies and patient case reports suggest therapeutic potential of the clinical kinase inhibitors erlotinib and gefitinib in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The drugs' cellular modes of action in AML warrant further investigation as their primary therapeutic target, the epidermal growth factor receptor, is not expressed. We therefore performed SILAC-based quantitative mass spectrometry analyses to a depth of 10,975 distinct phosphorylation sites to characterize the phosphoproteome of KG1 AML cells and its regulation upon erlotinib and gefitinib treatment. Less than 50 site-specific phosphorylations changed significantly, indicating rather specific interference with AML cell signaling. Many drug-induced changes occurred within a network of tyrosine phosphorylated proteins that included Src family kinases (SFKs) and the tyrosine kinases Btk and Syk. We further performed quantitative chemical proteomics in KG1 cell extracts and identified SFKs and Btk as direct cellular targets of both erlotinib and gefitinib. Taken together, our data suggest that cellular perturbation of SFKs and/or Btk translates into rather specific signal transduction inhibition, which in turn contributes to the antileukemic activity of erlotinib and gefitinib in AML.
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