WIPI-dependent autophagy during neutrophil differentiation of NB4 acute promyelocytic leukemia cells

Cell Death Dis. 2014 Jul 3;5(7):e1315. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2014.261.


Members of the WD-repeat protein interacting with phosphoinositides (WIPI) family are phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI3P) effectors that are essential for the formation of autophagosomes. Autophagosomes, unique double-membraned organelles, are characteristic for autophagy, a bulk degradation mechanism with cytoprotective and homeostatic function. Both, WIPI-1 and WIPI-2 are aberrantly expressed in several solid tumors, linking these genes to carcinogenesis. We now found that the expression of WIPI-1 was significantly reduced in a large cohort of 98 primary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patient samples (complex karyotypes; t(8;21); t(15,17); inv(16)). In contrast, the expression of WIPI-2 was only reduced in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a distinct subtype of AML (t(15,17)). As AML cells are blocked in their differentiation, we tested if the expression levels of WIPI-1 and WIPI-2 increase during all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA)-induced neutrophil differentiation of APL. According to the higher WIPI-1 expression in granulocytes compared with immature blast cells, WIPI-1 but not WIPI-2 expression was significantly induced during neutrophil differentiation of NB4 APL cells. Interestingly, the induction of WIPI-1 expression was dependent on the transcription factor PU.1, a master regulator of myelopoiesis, supporting our notion that WIPI-1 expression is reduced in AML patients lacking proper PU-1 activity. Further, knocking down WIPI-1 in NB4 cells markedly attenuated the autophagic flux and significantly reduced neutrophil differentiation. This result was also achieved by knocking down WIPI-2, suggesting that both WIPI-1 and WIPI-2 are functionally required and not redundant in mediating the PI3P signal at the onset of autophagy in NB4 cells. In line with these data, downregulation of PI3KC3 (hVPS34), which generates PI3P upstream of WIPIs, also inhibited neutrophil differentiation. In conclusion, we demonstrate that both WIPI-1 and WIPI-2 are required for the PI3P-dependent autophagic activity during neutrophil differentiation, and that PU.1-dependent WIPI-1 expression is significantly repressed in primary AML patient samples and that the induction of autophagic flux is associated with neutrophil differentiation of APL cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autophagy*
  • Autophagy-Related Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / metabolism*
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / cytology*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Phosphate-Binding Proteins
  • Young Adult


  • Autophagy-Related Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phosphate-Binding Proteins
  • WIPI-1 protein, human
  • WIPI-2 protein, human
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases