The arsenic-based cure of acute promyelocytic leukemia promotes cytoplasmic sequestration of PML and PML/RARA through inhibition of PML body recycling

Blood. 2012 Jul 26;120(4):847-57. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-10-388496. Epub 2012 Jun 12.


Arsenic in the form of arsenic trioxide (ATO) is used as a therapeutic drug for treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). The mechanism by which this agent cures this disease was previously shown to involve direct interactions between ATO and the promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML), as well as accelerated degradation of the APL-associated fusion oncoprotein PML/retinoic acid receptor α (RARA). Here we investigated the fate of PML-generated nuclear structures called PML bodies in ATO-treated cells. We found that ATO inhibits formation of progeny PML bodies while it stabilizes cytoplasmic precursor compartments, referred to as cytoplasmic assemblies of PML and nucleoporins (CyPNs), after cell division. This block in PML body recycling is readily detected at pharmacologic relevant ATO concentrations (0.02-0.5μM) that do not cause detectable cell-cycle defects, and it does not require modification of PML by SUMOylation. In addition, PML and PML/RARA carrying mutations previously identified in ATO-resistant APL patients are impeded in their ability to become sequestered within CyPNs. Thus, ATO may inhibit nuclear activities of PML and PML/RARA in postmitotic cells through CyPN-dependent cytoplasmic sequestration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Arsenic Trioxide
  • Arsenicals / pharmacology*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / metabolism*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / metabolism*
  • Oxides / pharmacology*
  • Promyelocytic Leukemia Protein
  • Recycling
  • Sumoylation / drug effects
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Arsenicals
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Oxides
  • Promyelocytic Leukemia Protein
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor alpha fusion oncoprotein
  • PML protein, human
  • Arsenic Trioxide