The BCR-ABL1 fusion protein is the cause of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and of a significant fraction of adult-onset B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) cases. Using mouse models and patient-derived samples, we identified an essential role for γ-catenin in the initiation and maintenance of BCR-ABL1+ B-ALL but not CML. The selectivity was explained by a partial γ-catenin dependence of MYC expression together with the susceptibility of B-ALL, but not CML, to reduced MYC levels. MYC and γ-catenin enabled B-ALL maintenance by augmenting BIRC5 and enforced BIRC5 expression overcame γ-catenin loss. Since γ-catenin was dispensable for normal hematopoiesis, these lineage- and disease-specific features of canonical Wnt signaling identified a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of BCR-ABL1+ B-ALL.
Keywords: B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL); BCR-ABL1; BIRC5 (Survivin); MYC; chronic myeloid leukemia (CML); junction plakoglobin; β-catenin; γ-catenin.
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