Hexokinase 3 enhances myeloid cell survival via non-glycolytic functions

Cell Death Dis. 2022 May 11;13(5):448. doi: 10.1038/s41419-022-04891-w.


The family of hexokinases (HKs) catalyzes the first step of glycolysis, the ATP-dependent phosphorylation of glucose to glucose-6-phosphate. While HK1 and HK2 are ubiquitously expressed, the less well-studied HK3 is primarily expressed in hematopoietic cells and tissues and is highly upregulated during terminal differentiation of some acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell line models. Here we show that expression of HK3 is predominantly originating from myeloid cells and that the upregulation of this glycolytic enzyme is not restricted to differentiation of leukemic cells but also occurs during ex vivo myeloid differentiation of healthy CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Within the hematopoietic system, we show that HK3 is predominantly expressed in cells of myeloid origin. CRISPR/Cas9 mediated gene disruption revealed that loss of HK3 has no effect on glycolytic activity in AML cell lines while knocking out HK2 significantly reduced basal glycolysis and glycolytic capacity. Instead, loss of HK3 but not HK2 led to increased sensitivity to ATRA-induced cell death in AML cell lines. We found that HK3 knockout (HK3-null) AML cells showed an accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as well as DNA damage during ATRA-induced differentiation. RNA sequencing analysis confirmed pathway enrichment for programmed cell death, oxidative stress, and DNA damage response in HK3-null AML cells. These signatures were confirmed in ATAC sequencing, showing that loss of HK3 leads to changes in chromatin configuration and increases the accessibility of genes involved in apoptosis and stress response. Through isoform-specific pulldowns, we furthermore identified a direct interaction between HK3 and the proapoptotic BCL-2 family member BIM, which has previously been shown to shorten myeloid life span. Our findings provide evidence that HK3 is dispensable for glycolytic activity in AML cells while promoting cell survival, possibly through direct interaction with the BH3-only protein BIM during ATRA-induced neutrophil differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Glycolysis / genetics
  • Hexokinase* / genetics
  • Hexokinase* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism


  • Hexokinase