In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), Notch1 and Notch2 signaling is constitutively activated and contributes to apoptosis resistance. We show that genetic inhibition of either Notch1 or Notch2, through small-interfering RNA, increases apoptosis of CLL cells and is associated with decreased levels of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1. Thus, Notch signaling promotes CLL cell survival at least in part by sustaining Mcl-1 expression. In CLL cells, an enhanced Notch activation also contributes to the increase in Mcl-1 expression and cell survival induced by IL-4.Mcl-1 downregulation by Notch targeting is not due to reduced transcription or degradation by caspases, but in part, to increased degradation by the proteasome. Mcl-1 downregulation by Notch targeting is also accompanied by reduced phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), suggesting that this protein is another target of Notch signaling in CLL cells.Overall, we show that Notch signaling sustains CLL cell survival by promoting Mcl-1 expression and eIF4E activity, and given the oncogenic role of these factors, we underscore the therapeutic potential of Notch inhibition in CLL.
Keywords: Mcl-1; Notch; cell survival; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; eIF4E.