The proliferation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells requires communication with the lymphoid organ microenvironment. Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is a multifunctional intracellular adaptor protein that transmits extracellular signals to regulate malignant cell motility, metastasis, and cell-cycle progression, but is poorly characterized in hematologic malignancies. In this study, we investigated the role of ILK in the context of CLL and observed high ILK expression in patient samples, particularly in tumor cells harboring prognostic high-risk markers such as unmutated IGHV genes, high Zap70, or CD38 expression, or a signature of recent proliferation. We also found increased numbers of Ki67 (MKI67)-positive cells in regions of enhanced ILK expression in lymph nodes from CLL patients. Using coculture conditions mimicking the proliferative lymph node microenvironment, we detected a parallel induction of ILK and cyclin D1 (CCND1) expression in CLL cells that was dependent on the activation of NF-κB signaling by soluble TNFα. The newly synthesized ILK protein colocalized to centrosomal structures and was required for correct centrosome clustering and mitotic spindle organization. Furthermore, we established a mouse model of CLL in which B-cell-specific genetic ablation of ILK resulted in decelerated leukemia development due to reduced organ infiltration and proliferation of CLL cells. Collectively, our findings describe a TNFα-NF-κB-mediated mechanism by which ILK expression is induced in the lymph node microenvironment and propose that ILK promotes leukemogenesis by enabling CLL cells to cope with centrosomal defects acquired during malignant transformation. Cancer Res; 76(8); 2186-96. ©2016 AACR.
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.