Chronic myeloid leukemia is a clonal myeloproliferative expansion of transformed primitive hematopoietic progenitor cells characterized by high-level expression of BCR-ABL chimeric gene, which induces growth factor independence. However, the influence of BCR-ABL expression on cellmediated cytotoxicity is poorly understood. In the present study, we asked whether BCR-ABL expression interferes with leukemic target sensitivity to natural killer (NK) cell cytolysis. Our approach was based on the use of 2 BCR-ABL transfectants of the pluripotent hematopoietic cell line UT-7 expressing low (UT-7/E8, UT-7/G6) and high (UT-7/9) levels of BCR-ABL. As effector cells, we used CD56bright, CD16-, CD2- NK cells differentiated in vitro from CD34 cord blood progenitors. We demonstrated that BCR-ABL transfectants UT-7/9 were lysed by NK cells with a higher efficiency than parental and low UT-7/E8.1 and UT-7/G6 transfectants. This enhanced susceptibility to lysis correlated with an increase in expression of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) by target cells. Treatment of UT-7/9 cells by STI571 (a specific inhibitor of the abl kinase) resulted in a decrease in NK susceptibility to lysis and ICAM-1 down-regulation in target cells. Furthermore, the constitutive activation of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) detected in BCR-ABL transfectant UT-7/9, was significantly attenuated when cells were treated by STI571. Interestingly, inhibition of NF-κB activation by BAY11-67082 (a specific NF-κB inhibitor) resulted in down-regulation of ICAM-1 expression and a subsequent decrease in NK-induced killing of UT-7/9 transfectants. Our results show that oncogenic transformation by BCR-ABL may increase susceptibility of leukemic progenitors to NK cell cytotoxicity by a mechanism involving overexpression of ICAM-1 as a consequence of NF-κB activation.
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