NRARP displays either pro- or anti-tumoral roles in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia depending on Notch and Wnt signaling

Oncogene. 2020 Jan;39(5):975-986. doi: 10.1038/s41388-019-1042-9. Epub 2019 Oct 4.


T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematological malignancy with a dismal prognosis in patients with resistant or relapsed disease. Although NOTCH is a known driver in T-ALL, its clinical inhibition has significant limitations. Our previous studies suggested that NRARP, a negative regulator of Notch signaling, could have a suppressive role in T-ALL. Here, we report that NRARP levels are significantly increased in primary T-ALL cells suggesting that NRARP is not sufficient to block NOTCH oncogenic signals. Interestingly, although NRARP overexpression blocks NOTCH1 signaling and delays the proliferation of T-ALL cells that display high levels of Notch1 signaling, it promotes the expansion of T-ALL cells with lower levels of Notch1 activity. We found that NRARP interacts with lymphoid enhancer-binding factor 1 (LEF1) and potentiates Wnt signaling in T-ALL cells with low levels of Notch. Together these results indicate that NRARP plays a dual role in T-ALL pathogenesis, regulating both Notch and Wnt pathways, with opposite functional effects depending on Notch activity. Consistent with this hypothesis, mice transplanted with T-cells co-expressing NOTCH1 and NRARP develop leukemia later than mice transplanted with T-NOTCH1 cells. Importantly, mice transplanted with T-cells overexpressing NRARP alone developed leukemia with similar kinetics to those transplanted with T-NOTCH1 cells. Our findings uncover a role for NRARP in T-ALL pathogenesis and indicate that Notch inhibition may be detrimental for patients with low levels of Notch signaling, which would likely benefit from the use of Wnt signaling inhibitors. Importantly, our findings may extend to other cancers where Notch and Wnt play a role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • NRARP protein, human
  • Receptors, Notch