The CNS microenvironment promotes leukemia cell survival by disrupting tumor suppression and cell cycle regulation in pediatric T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Exp Cell Res. 2024 Apr 15;437(2):114015. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2024.114015. Epub 2024 Mar 30.


A major obstacle in improving survival in pediatric T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia is understanding how to predict and treat leukemia relapse in the CNS. Leukemia cells are capable of infiltrating and residing within the CNS, primarily the leptomeninges, where they interact with the microenvironment and remain sheltered from systemic treatment. These cells can survive in the CNS, by hijacking the microenvironment and disrupting normal functions, thus promoting malignant transformation. While the protective effects of the bone marrow niche have been widely studied, the mechanisms behind leukemia infiltration into the CNS and the role of the CNS niche in leukemia cell survival remain unknown. We identified a dysregulated gene expression profile in CNS infiltrated T-ALL and CNS relapse, promoting cell survival, chemoresistance, and disease progression. Furthermore, we discovered that interactions between leukemia cells and human meningeal cells induced epigenetic alterations, such as changes in histone modifications, including H3K36me3 levels. These findings are a step towards understanding the molecular mechanisms promoting leukemia cell survival in the CNS microenvironment. Our results highlight genetic and epigenetic alterations induced by interactions between leukemia cells and the CNS niche, which could potentially be utilized as biomarkers to predict CNS infiltration and CNS relapse.

Keywords: CNS; Cell cycle; Survival; T-ALL; Tumor suppression.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Survival
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma*
  • Precursor T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma*
  • Recurrence
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment