Combined loss of function of two different loci of miR-15/16 drives the pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia

Francesca Lovat, Giovanni Nigita, Rosario Distefano, Tatsuya Nakamura, Pierluigi Gasparini, Luisa Tomasello, Paolo Fadda, Narmin Ibrahimova, Silvia Catricalà, Alexey Palamarchuk, Michael A. Caligiuri, Anna Gallì, Luca Malcovati, Mark D. Minden, Carlo M. Croce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Double knockout of the two miR-15/16 loci in mouse resulted in the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This result suggested that, at least, a fraction of human AMLs could be due to a similar mechanism. We analyzed the role of the two miR-15/16 clusters in 93 myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) patients divided in three subgroups: patients with MDS, patients with MDS before transforming into AML (MDS-T), and patients with AML evolving from MDS (MDS-AML). Then, we tested 139 AML cases and 14 different AML cell lines by assessing microRNA (miRNA) expression, target protein expression, genetic loss, and silencing. MDS-T and MDS-AML patients show a reduction of the expression of miR-15a/-15b/-16 compared to MDS patients. Each miRNA can significantly predict MDS and MDS-T groups. Then, 79% of primary AMLs show a reduced expression of miR-15a and/or miR-15b. The expression of miR-15a/-15b/-16 significantly stratified AML patients in two prognostic classes. Furthermore, 40% of AML cell lines showed a combined loss of the expression of miR-15a/-15b and overexpression of their direct/indirect targets. As potential mechanisms involved in the silencing of the two miR-15/16 loci, we identified a genetic loss of miR-15a and miR-15b and silencing of these two loci by methylation. We identified a potential driver oncogenic role in the loss of expression of both miR-15/16 clusters in the progression of MDS into AML and in AML pathogenesis. The stratification of AML patients, based on miR-15/16 expression, can lead to targeted and combination therapies for the treatment of this incurable disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12332-12340
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2 2020


  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • miR-15/16 cluster
  • myelodysplastic syndromes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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