NrasQ61R/+ and Kras-/- cooperate to downregulate Rasgrp1 and promote lympho-myeloid leukemia in early T-cell precursors.

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Early T cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ETP-ALL) is an aggressive subtype of T-ALL. Although genetic mutations hyperactivating cytokine receptor/Ras signaling are prevalent in ETP-ALL, it remains unknown how activated Ras signaling contributes to ETP-ALL. Here, we find that in addition to the frequent oncogenic RAS mutations, wild-type (WT) KRAS transcript level was significantly downregulated in human ETP-ALL cells. Similarly, loss of WT Kras in NrasQ61R/+ mice promoted hyperactivation of ERK signaling, thymocyte hyperproliferation, and expansion of ETP compartment. Kras-/-;NrasQ61R/+ mice developed early onset of T-cell malignancy that recapitulates many biological and molecular features of human ETP-ALL. Mechanistically, RNA-Seq analysis and quantitative proteomics study identified that Rasgrp1, a Ras guanine nucleotide exchange factor, was greatly downregulated in mouse and human ETP-ALL. Unexpectedly, hyperactivated Nras/ERK signaling suppressed Rasgrp1 expression and reduced Rasgrp1 level led to increased ERK signaling, thereby establishing a positive feedback loop to augment Nras/ERK signaling and promote cell proliferation. Corroborating our cell line data, Rasgrp1 haploinsufficiency induced Rasgrp1 downregulation, increased pERK level, and ETP expansion in NrasQ61R/+ mice. Our study identifies Rasgrp1 as a negative regulator of Ras/ERK signaling in oncogenic Nras-driven ETP-like leukemia.

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