MDMX acts as a pervasive preleukemic-to-acute myeloid leukemia transition mechanism

Cancer Cell. 2021 Apr 12;39(4):529-547.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2021.02.006. Epub 2021 Mar 4.


MDMX is overexpressed in the vast majority of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We report that MDMX overexpression increases preleukemic stem cell (pre-LSC) number and competitive advantage. Utilizing five newly generated murine models, we found that MDMX overexpression triggers progression of multiple chronic/asymptomatic preleukemic conditions to overt AML. Transcriptomic and proteomic studies revealed that MDMX overexpression exerts this function, unexpectedly, through activation of Wnt/β-Catenin signaling in pre-LSCs. Mechanistically, MDMX binds CK1α and leads to accumulation of β-Catenin in a p53-independent manner. Wnt/β-Catenin inhibitors reverse MDMX-induced pre-LSC properties, and synergize with MDMX-p53 inhibitors. Wnt/β-Catenin signaling correlates with MDMX expression in patients with preleukemic myelodysplastic syndromes and is associated with increased risk of progression to AML. Our work identifies MDMX overexpression as a pervasive preleukemic-to-AML transition mechanism in different genetically driven disease subtypes, and reveals Wnt/β-Catenin as a non-canonical MDMX-driven pathway with therapeutic potential for progression prevention and cancer interception.

Keywords: CK1α; MDMX; acute myeloid leukemia; cancer interception; myelodysplastic syndromes; precision prevention; preleukemia; preleukemic stem cells; targeted therapy; β-Catenin.