Treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is the first example of targeted therapy. In fact, the oncogenic fusion-protein (PML-RAR) typical of this leukemia contains the retinoid-nuclear-receptor RARa. PML-RAR is responsible for the differentiation block of the leukemic blast. Besides PML-RAR, two endogenous RARa proteins are present in APL blasts, i.e. RARα1 and RARα2. We developed different cell populations characterized by PML-RAR, RARα2 and RARα1 knock-down in the APL-derived NB4 cell-line. Unexpectedly, silencing of PML-RAR and RARα2 results in similar increases in the constitutive expression of several granulocytic differentiation markers. This is accompanied by enhanced expression of the same granulocytic markers upon exposure of the NB4 blasts to ATRA. Silencing of PML-RAR and RARα2 causes also similar perturbations in the whole genome gene-expression profiles of vehicle and ATRA treated NB4 cells. Unlike PMLRAR and RARα2, RARα1 knock-down blocks ATRA-dependent induction of several granulocytic differentiation markers. Many of the effects on myeloid differentiation are confirmed by over-expression of RARα2 in NB4 cells. RARα2 action on myeloid differentiation does not require the presence of PML-RAR, as it is recapitulated also upon knock-down in PML-RAR-negative HL-60 cells. Thus, relative to RARα1, PMLRAR and RARα2 exert opposite effects on APL-cell differentiation. These contrasting actions may be related to the fact that both PML-RAR and RARα2 interact with and inhibit the transcriptional activity of RARα1. The interaction surface is located in the carboxy-terminal domain containing the D/E/F regions and it is influenced by phosphorylation of Ser-369 of RARα1.
- Retinoic acid
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