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Phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase activity is regulated by BCR/ABL and is required for the growth of Philadelphia chromosome-positive cells.

Skorski T, Kanakaraj P, Nieborowska-Skorska M, Ratajczak MZ, Wen SC, Zon G, Gewirtz AM, Perussia B, Calabretta B


The BCR/ABL oncogenic tyrosine kinase is responsible for initiating and maintaining the leukemic phenotype of Philadelphia chromosome (Ph1)-positive cells. Phosphatidylinositol-3 (PI-3) kinase is known to interact with and be activated by receptor and nonreceptor tyrosine kinases. We investigated whether PI-3 kinase associates with and/or is regulated by BCR/ABL, whether this interaction is functionally significant for Ph1 cell proliferation, and, if so, whether inhibition of PI-3 kinase activity can be exploited to eliminate Ph1-positive cells from bone marrow. We show that the p85 alpha subunit of PI-3 kinase associates with BCR/ABL and that transient expression of BCR/ABL in fibroblasts and down-regulation of BCR/ABL expression using antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) in Ph1 cells activates and inhibits, respectively, PI-3 kinase enzymatic activity. The use of specific ODNs or antisense constructs to downregulate p85 alpha expression showed a requirement for p85 alpha subunit in the proliferation of BCR/ABL-dependent cell lines and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) primary cells. Similarly, wortmannin, a specific inhibitor of the enzymatic activity of the p110 subunit of PI-3 kinase, inhibited growth of these cells. The growth of normal bone marrow and erythromyeloid, but not megakaryocyte, progenitors was inhibited by p85 alpha antisense [S]ODNs, but wortmannin, at the concentrations tested, did not affect normal hematopoiesis. The proliferation of two BCR/ABL- and growth factor-independent cell lines was not affected by downregulation of the expression of the p85 alpha subunit or inhibition of p110 enzymatic activity, confirming the specificity of the observed effects on Ph1 cells. Thus, PI-3 kinase is one of the downstream effectors of BCR/ABL tyrosine kinase in CML cells. Moreover, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction performed on single colonies to detect BCR-ABL transcripts showed that wortmannin was able to eliminate selectively CML-blast crisis cells from a mixture of normal bone marrow and Ph1 cells.

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