Acute myeloid leukemia-induced remodeling of the human bone marrow niche predicts clinical outcome

Blood Adv. 2020 Oct 27;4(20):5257-5268. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2020001808.


Murine models of myeloid neoplasia show how leukemia infiltration alters the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche to reinforce malignancy at the expense of healthy hematopoiesis. However, little is known about the bone marrow architecture in humans and its impact on clinical outcome. Here, we dissect the bone marrow niche in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at first diagnosis. We combined immunohistochemical stainings with global gene expression analyses from these AML patients and correlated them with clinical features. Mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells (MSPCs) lost quiescence and significantly expanded in the bone marrow of AML patients. Strikingly, their HSC- and niche-regulating capacities were impaired with significant inhibition of osteogenesis and bone formation in a cell contact-dependent manner through inhibition of cytoplasmic β-catenin. Assessment of bone metabolism by quantifying peripheral blood osteocalcin levels revealed 30% lower expression in AML patients at first diagnosis than in non-leukemic donors. Furthermore, patients with osteocalcin levels ≤11 ng/mL showed inferior overall survival with a 1-year survival rate of 38.7% whereas patients with higher osteocalcin levels reached a survival rate of 66.8%. These novel insights into the human AML bone marrow microenvironment help translate findings from preclinical models and detect new targets which might pave the way for niche-targeted therapies in AML patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow*
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute*
  • Mice
  • Stem Cell Niche
  • Tumor Microenvironment