Peptides Targeting Fms-Related Tyrosine Kinase-4 Activate the Function of Natural Killer Cells in Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Int J Stem Cells. 2021 Nov 30;14(4):400-409. doi: 10.15283/ijsc21083.


Background and objectives: The increased expression for the Fms-related tyrosine kinase-4 (FLT-4, known as VEGFR-3) is relevant to dysfunctional natural killer (NK) cells in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). MAZ51 (M), a VEGFR-3 inhibiting chemical, was effectively restored the function of NK cells via the high expression of interferon- gamma (IFN-γ) in NK cells, as shown in our previous study. Although tremendous amount of clinical data using peptides are currently available in real clinic, peptides targeting FLT-4 in modulating immune cells such as NK cells are not fully elucidated.

Methods and results: In present study, we developed peptides targeting FLT-4 (P), which is inhibiting an affinity for AML-NK expressing FLT-4 in vitro and in vivo. Bone marrow (BM) and peripheral blood (PB) mononuclear cells (MNCs) from AML patients were treated with combinational cocktails of the three agents including P, M, ara-C (A) and FLT-4 expression and IFN-γ release were examined. In an AML mouse model, IFN-γ expression were examined in T and NK cells from mouse BM, spleen, and liver to address relevance between peptides and immune cell activation. We found that AML-NK cells both in human and mouse samples showed a gradual increase the IFN-γ levels compared to the controls. There was a trend toward a reduction in leukemic blasts in the BM, spleen, and liver from the AML mice, when we compared the effects of combinational treatments.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the function of AML-NK cells was synergistically activated by P in combination with M or A.

Keywords: AML; FLT-4; Interferon-γ; Natural killer cell; Peptide.