Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) frequently have an activating mutation in the gene encoding Janus kinase 2 (JAK2). Thus, targeting the pathway mediated by JAK and its downstream substrate, signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT), may yield clinical benefit for patients with MPNs containing the JAK2(V617F) mutation. Although JAK inhibitor therapy reduces splenomegaly and improves systemic symptoms in patients, this treatment does not appreciably reduce the number of neoplastic cells. To identify potential mechanisms underlying this inherent resistance phenomenon, we performed pathway-centric, gain-of-function screens in JAK2(V617F) hematopoietic cells and found that the activation of the guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) RAS or its effector pathways [mediated by the kinases AKT and ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase)] renders cells insensitive to JAK inhibition. Resistant MPN cells became sensitized to JAK inhibitors when also exposed to inhibitors of the AKT or ERK pathways. Mechanistically, in JAK2(V617F) cells, a JAK2-mediated inactivating phosphorylation of the proapoptotic protein BAD [B cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2)-associated death promoter] promoted cell survival. In sensitive cells, exposure to a JAK inhibitor resulted in dephosphorylation of BAD, enabling BAD to bind and sequester the prosurvival protein BCL-XL (BCL-2-like 1), thereby triggering apoptosis. In resistant cells, RAS effector pathways maintained BAD phosphorylation in the presence of JAK inhibitors, yielding a specific dependence on BCL-XL for survival. In patients with MPNs, activating mutations in RAS co-occur with the JAK2(V617F) mutation in the malignant cells, suggesting that RAS effector pathways likely play an important role in clinically observed resistance.
Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.