Resistance to Dasatinib in primary chronic lymphocytic leukemia lymphocytes involves AMPK-mediated energetic re-programming

Oncotarget. 2013 Dec;4(12):2550-66. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.1508.


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common leukemia in adults in the western world. Although promising new therapies for this incurable disease are being tested in clinical trials, the therapeutic relevance of metabolic rewiring in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is poorly understood. The aim of this study was to identify targetable metabolic differences in primary CLL lymphocytes by the use of Dasatinib. Dasatinib is a multi-tyrosine kinase inhibitor used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and is being tested in clinical trials for several cancers including CLL. This drug has been shown to be beneficial to CML patients suffering from diabetes by reducing their glucose plasma levels. In keeping with this previous observation, we report that Dasatinib induced glucose use while reducing lactate production, suggesting that this tyrosine kinase inhibitor decreases aerobic glycolysis and shifts glucose use in primary CLL lymphocytes. Our results suggest that primary CLL lymphocytes (independently of traditional prognostic factors) can be stratified in two subsets by their sensitivity to Dasatinib in vitro. Increased glucose use induced by Dasatinib or by inhibition of mitochondrial respiration was not sufficient to sustain survival and ATP levels in CLL samples sensitive to Dasatinib. The two subsets of primary CLL lymphocytes are characterized as well by a differential dependency on mitochondrial respiration and the use of anabolic or catabolic processes to cope with induced metabolic/energetic stress. Differential metabolic reprogramming between subsets is supported by the contrasting effect on the survival of Dasatinib treated CLL lymphocytes with pharmacological inhibition of two master metabolic regulators (mTorc1 and AMPK) as well as induced autophagy. Alternative metabolic organization between subsets is further supported by the differential basal expression (freshly purified lymphocytes) of active AMPK, regulators of glucose metabolism and modulators of AKT signaling. The contrasting metabolic features revealed by our strategy could be used to metabolically target CLL lymphocyte subsets creating new therapeutic windows for this disease for mTORC1 or AMPK inhibitors. Indeed, we report that Metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes was selectively cytotoxic to Dasatinib sensitive samples. Ultimately, we suggest that a similar strategy could be applied to other cancer types by using Dasatinib and/or relevant tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Lactic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • SLC2A1 protein, human
  • Lactic Acid
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • TIGAR protein, human
  • Glucose