The t(12;21) translocation generating the ETV6/RUNX1 fusion gene represents the most frequent chromosomal rearrangement in childhood leukemia. Presence of ETV6/RUNX1 alone is usually not sufficient for leukemia onset, and additional genetic alterations have to occur in ETV6/RUNX1-positive cells to cause transformation. We have previously generated an ETV6/RUNX1 transgenic mouse model where the expression of the fusion gene is restricted to CD19-positive B cells. Since BCL2 family members have been proposed to play a role in leukemogenesis, we investigated combined effects of ETV6/RUNX1 with exogenous expression of the antiapoptotic protein BCL2 by crossing ETV6/RUNX1 transgenic animals with Vav-BCL2 transgenic mice. Strikingly, co-expression of ETV6/RUNX1 and BCL2 resulted in significantly shorter disease latency in mice, indicating oncogene cooperativity. This was associated with faster development of follicular B cell lymphoma and exacerbated immune complex glomerulonephritis. ETV6/RUNX1-BCL2 double transgenic animals displayed increased B cell numbers and immunoglobulin titers compared to Vav-BCL2 transgenic mice. This led to pronounced deposition of immune complexes in glomeruli followed by accelerated development of immune complex glomerulonephritis. Thus, our study reveals a previously unrecognized synergism between ETV6/RUNX1 and BCL2 impacting on malignant disease and autoimmunity.
Keywords: BCL2; ETV6/RUNX1; Immune response; Immunity; Immunology and Microbiology Section; autoimmunity; glomerulonephritis; lymphoma.