Modeling human MLL-AF9 translocated acute myeloid leukemia from single donors reveals RET as a potential therapeutic target

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Abstract

Acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) result from a series of genetic events occurring in a stem or progenitor hematopoietic cell that gives rise to their clonal expansion and an impaired capacity to differentiate. To circumvent the genetic heterogeneity of AML patient cohorts, we have developed a model system, driven by the MLL-AF9 (MA9) oncogene, to generate multiple human leukemias using progenitor cells from a single healthy donor. Through stepwise RNA-sequencing data generated using this model and AML patients, we have identified consistent changes associated with MA9-driven leukemogenesis and demonstrate that no recurrent secondary mutations are required. We identify 39 biomarkers whose high expression level is specific to this genetic subtype of AML and validate that many of these have diagnostic utility. We further examined one biomarker, the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) RET, and show through shRNA knockdowns that its expression is essential for in vivo and in vitro growth of MA9-AML. These results highlight the value of novel human models of AML derived from single donors using specific oncogenic fusions to understand their biology and to uncover potential therapeutic targets.

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