HSP90 stabilizes B-cell receptor kinases in a multi-client interactome: PU-H71 induces CLL apoptosis in a cytoprotective microenvironment

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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by the accumulation of B cells in the hematopoietic system and lymphoid tissues. Although inhibitors targeting the B-cell receptor (BCR) pathway have been successful in the treatment of the disease, the underlying mechanisms leading to BCR over-activity in CLL are not fully understood. In this study, we found that HSP90, a highly conserved molecular chaperone, is overexpressed in CLL compared with resting B cells. HSP90 overexpression is accompanied by the overexpression of several BCR kinases including LYN, spleen tyrosine kinase, Bruton tyrosine kinase and AKT. Chemical and immune-precipitation demonstrated that these BCR constituents are present in a multi-client chaperone complex with HSP90. Inhibition of HSP90 with PU-H71 destabilized the BCR kinases and caused apoptosis of CLL cells through the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Further, PU-H71 induced apoptosis in the presence of stromal co-culture or cytoprotective survival signals. Finally, genetic knockdown of HSP90 and its client AKT, but not BTK, reduced CLL viability. Overall, our study suggests that the chaperone function of HSP90 contributes to the over-activity of the BCR signaling in CLL and inhibition of HSP90 has the potential to achieve a multi-targeting effect. Thus, HSP90 inhibition may be explored to prevent or overcome drug resistance to single targeting agents.

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