Protease-activated receptor-1 inhibits proliferation but enhances leukemia stem cell activity in acute myeloid leukemia
Eradication of leukemia stem cells (LSCs) is the ultimate goal of treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We recently showed that the combined loss of Runx1/Cbfb inhibited the development of MLL-AF9-induced AML. However, c-Kit+/Gr-1- cells remained viable in Runx1/Cbfb-deleted cells, indicating that suppressing RUNX activity may not eradicate the most immature LSCs. In this study, we found upregulation of several hemostasis-related genes, including the thrombin-activatable receptor PAR-1 (protease-activated receptor-1), in Runx1/Cbfb-deleted MLL-AF9 cells. Similar to the effect of Runx1/Cbfb deletion, PAR-1 overexpression induced CDKN1A/p21 expression and attenuated proliferation in MLL-AF9 cells. To our surprise, PAR-1 deficiency also prevented leukemia development induced by a small number of MLL-AF9 leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in vivo. PAR-1 deficiency also reduced leukemogenicity of AML1-ETO-induced leukemia. Re-expression of PAR-1 in PAR-1-deficient cells combined with a limiting-dilution transplantation assay demonstrated the cell-dose-dependent role of PAR-1 in MLL-AF9 leukemia: PAR-1 inhibited rapid leukemic proliferation when there were a large number of LSCs, while a small number of LSCs required PAR-1 for their efficient growth. Mechanistically, PAR-1 increased the adherence properties of MLL-AF9 cells and promoted their engraftment to bone marrow. Taken together, these data revealed a multifaceted role for PAR-1 in leukemogenesis, and highlight this receptor as a potential target to eradicate primitive LSCs in AML.