Tumors contain a fraction of cancer stem cells that maintain the propagation of the disease. The CD34+CD38- cells, isolated from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), were shown to be enriched leukemic stem cells (LSC). We isolated the CD34+CD38- cell fraction from AML and compared their gene expression profiles to the CD34+CD38+ cell fraction, using microarrays. We found 409 genes that were at least twofold over- or underexpressed between the two cell populations. These include underexpression of DNA repair, signal transduction and cell cycle genes, consistent with the relative quiescence of stem cells, and chromosomal aberrations and mutations of leukemic cells. Comparison of the LSC expression data to that of normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) revealed that 34% of the modulated genes are shared by both LSC and HSC, supporting the suggestion that the LSC originated within the HSC progenitors. We focused on the Notch pathway since Jagged-2, a Notch ligand was found to be overexpressed in the LSC samples. We show that DAPT, an inhibitor of gamma-secretase, a protease that is involved in Jagged and Notch signaling, inhibits LSC growth in colony formation assays. Identification of additional genes that regulate LSC self-renewal may provide new targets for therapy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Kahn Family Foundation for their generous support. This research was partially supported by the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust on Tumor Cell Diversity, by the Israel Academy of Science, and by grants from Ruth & Allen Zeigler for Stem Cell Research.