CDK6-mediated repression of CD25 is required for induction and maintenance of Notch1-induced T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

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T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is a high-risk subset of acute leukemia, characterized by frequent activation of Notch1 or AKT signaling, where new therapeutic approaches are needed. We showed previously that cyclin-dependent kinase 6 (CDK6) is required for thymic lymphoblastic lymphoma induced by activated AKT. Here, we show CDK6 is required for initiation and maintenance of Notch-induced T-ALL. In a mouse retroviral model, hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells lacking CDK6 protein or expressing kinase-inactive (K43M) CDK6 are resistant to induction of T-ALL by activated Notch, whereas those expressing INK4-insensitive (R31C) CDK6 are permissive. Pharmacologic inhibition of CDK6 kinase induces CD25 and RUNX1 expression, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in mouse and human T-ALL. Ablation of Cd25 in a K43M background restores Notch-induced T leukemogenesis, with disease that is resistant to CDK6 inhibitors in vivo. These data support a model whereby CDK6-mediated suppression of CD25 is required for initiation of T-ALL by activated Notch1, and CD25 induction mediates the therapeutic response to CDK6 inhibition in established T-ALL. These results both validate CDK6 as a molecular target for therapy of this subset of T-ALL and suggest that CD25 expression could serve as a biomarker for responsiveness of T-ALL to CDK4/6 inhibitor therapy.

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