Internal tandem duplication mutations in the Flt3 gene (ITD-FLT3) enhance cell migration toward the chemokine Cxcl12, which is highly expressed in the therapy-protective bone marrow niche, providing a potential mechanism underlying the poor prognosis of ITD-FLT3(+) acute myeloid leukemia. We aimed to investigate the mechanisms linking ITD-FLT3 to increased cell migration toward Cxcl12. Classification of the expression of Cxcl12-regulated genes in ITD-FLT3(+) cells demonstrated that the enhanced migration of ITD-FLT3(+) cells toward Cxcl12 was associated with the differential expression of genes downstream of Cxcl12/Cxcr4, which are functionally distinct from those expressed in ITD-FLT3(-) cells but are independent of the Cxcr4 expression levels. Among these differentially regulated genes, the expression of Rock1 in the ITD-FLT3(+) cells that migrated toward Cxcl12 was significantly higher than in ITD-FLT3(-) cells that migrated toward Cxcl12. In ITD-FLT3(-) cells, Rock1 expression and Mypt1 phosphorylation were transiently up-regulated but were subsequently down-regulated by Cxcl12. In contrast, the presence of ITD-FLT3 blocked the Cxcl12-induced down-regulation of Rock1 and early Mypt1 dephosphorylation. Likewise, the FLT3 ligand counteracted the Cxcl12-induced down-regulation of Rock1 in ITD-FLT3(-) cells, which coincided with enhanced cell migration toward Cxcl12. Rock1 antagonists or Rock1 shRNA abolished the enhanced migration of ITD-FLT3(+) cells toward Cxcl12. Our findings demonstrate that ITD-FLT3 increases cell migration toward Cxcl12 by antagonizing the down-regulation of Rock1 expression. These findings suggest that the aberrant modulation of Rock1 expression and activity induced by ITD-FLT3 may enhance acute myeloid leukemia cell chemotaxis to the therapy-protective bone marrow niche, where Cxcl12 is abundantly expressed.
Keywords: CXCL12; CXCR4; Cell Biology; Gene Regulation; Hematopoiesis; ITD-Flt3; Leukemia; Rho-associated Kinase; Signal Transduction.
© 2014 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.