MicroRNA 21 is a novel oncogene in Notch1-driven acute lymphoblastic T cell leukemia

Notch signaling is a conserved cell-to-cell communication pathway essential in the development and maintenance of various tissues. Upon ligand binding, Notch receptors on the cell surface are proteolytically cleaved, generating the intracellular domain of Notch (NICD) which acts as a transcriptional regulator. Signaling through Notch1 is essential for normal T cell development, and de-regulated Notch1 signaling leads to the development of acute lymphoblastic T cell leukemia (T-ALL). Mouse models of retroviral overexpression of N1ICD in hematopoietic progenitors in bone-marrow (BM) chimeric mice clearly show that Notch1 in T-ALL acts as an oncogene. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNA molecules that function as post-transcriptional negative regulators of gene expression. They have been described to play either oncogenic or tumor suppressive roles in Notch1-driven T-ALL. However, it is currently unknown whether miRNAs are essential in Notch1-driven leukemogenesis or in T-ALL maintenance. Dicer1 is an essential enzyme for the generation of mature, functional miRNAs. In this study, the global requirement for miRNAs in T-ALL was assessed via conditional ablation of Dicer1 during early N1ICD-mediated leukemogenesis and in later stages of established T-ALL in vivo. Interestingly, both T-ALL development and maintenance in N1ICD overexpressing BM chimeras were dependent on Dicer1. This was found to be due to induction of apoptosis in Dicer1-deficient T-ALL cells. Microarray-based expression analysis demonstrated that potentially oncogenic miRNAs were up-regulated in both mouse and human T-ALL samples compared with normal T cell progenitors. Among the abundantly expressed miRNAs, candidates previously linked to T-ALL were detected as well as novel candidates. Among them, miR-21, which has previously been linked to tumor biology in a variety of solid tumors, was found to be the most differentially regulated in T-ALL and early and late T cell progenitors. It was also found to be abundantly expressed in primary mouse T-ALL specimens as well as human T-ALL cell lines and primary patient T-ALL samples. Using a novel lentivirus-based miRNA activity reporter system, I demonstrated that miR-21 is active in T-ALL cell lines both in vitro and in vivo. In addition, KD of miR-21 led to apoptosis in T-ALL cells with high miR-21 activity, consistent with miR-21 target gene de-repression. Taken together, these findings demonstrate for the first time that miR-21, in the context of Notch1-driven T-ALL, acts in an oncogenic fashion. It does so by facilitating T-ALL cell survival, which is, at least in part, due to repression of programmed cell-death protein 4 (Pdcd4), a miR-21 target gene and potential novel tumor suppressor in T-ALL. In summary, this study shows that in Notch1-driven T-ALL, miRNAs play an essential role by facilitating T-ALL cell survival, and that miR-21 is a novel oncogenic miRNA in this disease.

    Keywords: Notch1 ; miR-21 ; T-ALL ; Dicer1

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 6471 (2014)
    Programme doctoral Approches moléculaires du vivant
    Faculté des sciences de la vie
    Institut suisse de Recherche Expérimentale sur le Cancer
    Unité du Prof. Radtke
    Jury: Prof. O. Hantschel (président) ; Prof. F. Radtke (directeur) ; Dr J.-P. Bourquin, Prof. O.M. Naveiras Torres-Quiroga, Dr A. Wilson (rapporteurs)

    Public defense: 2014-12-12


    Record created on 2014-12-09, modified on 2016-08-09


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