C-MYC and Its Main Ubiquitin Ligase, FBXW7, Influence Cell Proliferation and Prognosis in Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma

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Smoldering-type and chronic-type adult T-cell leukemia/lymphomas (ATLL) patients have relatively indolent clinical courses, but often progress into aggressive lymphoma-type and acute-type disease. We examined the roles of transcription factor C-MYC and its ubiquitin ligase FBXW7 in tumor tissues from 137 patients with ATLL. Immunohistochemical tests showed ≥50% of lymphoma cells in 78.7% (48/61) of lymphoma-type, and 64.9% (24/37) of acute-type samples expressed C-MYC, significantly higher than was seen in smoldering-type (3.6%) and chronic-type (9.1%) samples (P<0.01). Real-time polymerase chain reaction showed C-MYC mRNA expression in lymphoma-type and acute-type samples were significantly higher than in smoldering-type (P<0.01). C-MYC expression was highly correlated with its mRNA levels (ρ=0.65, P<0.0001), chromosomal amplification and duplication (ρ=0.3, P=0.045) and MIB1 labeling index (ρ=0.69, P<0.0001). Expression of FBXW7 protein and mRNA in lymphoma-type samples were significantly lower than those of smoldering-type (P<0.01 for each), and both were inversely correlated with C-MYC (protein: ρ=−0.4, P=0.0002; mRNA: ρ=−0.31, P=0.015). Seven patients with smoldering-type or chronic-type ATLL converted to acute-type, in 4 of whom C-MYC expression increased from <50% to ≥50%. Patients with ≥50% C-MYC or MIB1 had significantly worse prognosis than those with <50% C-MYC (P=0.0004) or MIB1 (P<0.0001), as did those with ≥7.5 C-MYC mRNA scores (P=0.033); whereas significantly better prognosis was associated with ≥50% FBXW7 protein (P=0.0006) or ≥0.17 FBXW7 mRNA (P=0.016). C-MYC and FBXW7 affect ATLL proliferation and progression, and low FBXW7 may increase C-MYC expression. C-MYC was a critical prognostic factor in ATLL patients.

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