EphA2 Is a Therapy Target in EphA2-Positive Leukemias but Is Not Essential for Normal Hematopoiesis or Leukemia

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 17;10(6):e0130692. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130692. eCollection 2015.


Members of the Eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases and their membrane bound ephrin ligands have been shown to play critical roles in many developmental processes and more recently have been implicated in both normal and pathological processes in post-embryonic tissues. In particular, expression studies of Eph receptors and limited functional studies have demonstrated a role for the Eph/ephrin system in hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis. In particular, EphA2 was reported on hematopoietic stem cells and stromal cells. There are also reports of EphA2 expression in many different types of malignancies including leukemia, however there is a lack of knowledge in understanding the role of EphA2 in hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis. We explored the role of EphA2 in hematopoiesis by analyzing wild type and EphA2 knockout mice. Mature, differentiated cells, progenitors and hematopoietic stem cells derived from knockout and control mice were analyzed and no significant abnormality was detected. These studies showed that EphA2 does not have an obligatory role in normal hematopoiesis. Comparative studies using EphA2-negative MLL-AF9 leukemias derived from EphA2-knockout animals showed that there was no detectable functional role for EphA2 in the initiation or progression of the leukemic process. However, expression of EphA2 in leukemias initiated by MLL-AF9 suggested that this protein might be a possible therapy target in this type of leukemia. We showed that treatment with EphA2 monoclonal antibody IF7 alone had no effect on tumorigenicity and latency of the MLL-AF9 leukemias, while targeting of EphA2 using EphA2 monoclonal antibody with a radioactive payload significantly impaired the leukemic process. Altogether, these results identify EphA2 as a potential radio-therapeutic target in leukemias with MLL translocation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Hematopoiesis / genetics*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Leukemia / genetics
  • Leukemia / immunology
  • Leukemia / therapy*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein / genetics
  • Radioimmunotherapy*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Receptor, EphA2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, EphA2 / physiology*
  • Translocation, Genetic


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein
  • Receptor, EphA2

Grant support

This work was funded by Ph.D scholarship Leukaemia Foundation Australia to SC, Leukaemia Foundation Australia to AWB, Ride to Conquer Cancer to AWB and SC.