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RNA-seq analysis of 2 closely related leukemia clones that differ in their self-renewal capacity.

Wilhelm BT, Briau M, Austin P, Faubert A, Boucher G, Chagnon P, Hope K, Girard S, Mayotte N, Landry JR, Hébert J, Sauvageau G

Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada.

The molecular mechanisms regulating self-renewal of leukemia stem cells remain poorly understood. Here we report the generation of 2 closely related leukemias created through the retroviral overexpression of Meis1 and Hoxa9. Despite their apparent common origin, these clonal leukemias exhibit enormous differences in stem cell frequency (from 1 in 1.4, FLA2; to 1 in 347, FLB1), suggesting that one of these leukemias undergoes nearly unlimited self-renewal divisions. Using next-generation RNA-sequencing, we characterized the transcriptomes of these phenotypically similar, but biologically distinct, leukemias, identifying hundreds of differentially expressed genes and a large number of structural differences (eg, alternative splicing and promoter usage). Focusing on ligand-receptor pairs, we observed high expression levels of Sdf1-Cxcr4; Jagged2-Notch2/1; Osm-Gp130; Scf-cKit; and Bmp15-Tgfb1/2. Interestingly, the integrin beta 2-like gene (Itgb2l) is both highly expressed and differentially expressed between our 2 leukemias (∼ 14-fold higher in FLA2 than FLB1). In addition, gene ontology analysis indicated G-protein-coupled receptor had a much higher proportion of differential expression (22%) compared with other classes (∼ 5%), suggesting a potential role regulating subtle changes in cellular behavior. These results provide the first comprehensive transcriptome analysis of a leukemia stem cell and document an unexpected level of transcriptome variation between phenotypically similar leukemic cells.

Blood 2011;117(2):e27-38.

Pubmed ID: 20980679

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