HCK is a survival determinant transactivated by mutated MYD88, and a direct target of ibrutinib

Guang Yang, Sara J. Buhrlage, Li Tan, Xia Liu, Jie Chen, Lian Xu, Nicholas Tsakmaklis, Jiaji G. Chen, Christopher J. Patterson, Jennifer R. Brown, Jorge J. Castillo, Wei Zhang, Xiaofeng Zhang, Shuai Liu, Philip Cohen, Zachary R. Hunter, Nathanael Gray and Steven P. Treon

Key Points

  • HCK transcription and activation is triggered by mutated MYD88, and is an important determinant of pro-survival signaling.

  • HCK is also a target of ibrutinib, and inhibition of its kinase activity triggers apoptosis in mutated MYD88 cells.


Activating mutations in MYD88 are present in ∼95% of patients with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM), as well as other B-cell malignancies including activated B-cell (ABC) diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). In WM, mutated MYD88 triggers activation of Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK). Ibrutinib, a pleiotropic kinase inhibitor that targets BTK, is highly active in patients with mutated MYD88. We observed that mutated MYD88 WM and ABC DLBCL cell lines, as well as primary WM cells show enhanced hematopoietic cell kinase (HCK) transcription and activation, and that HCK is activated by interleukin 6 (IL-6). Over-expression of mutated MYD88 triggers HCK and IL-6 transcription, whereas knockdown of HCK reduced survival and attenuated BTK, phosphoinositide 3-kinase/AKT, and mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling in mutated MYD88 WM and/or ABC DLBCL cells. Ibrutinib and the more potent HCK inhibitor A419259, blocked HCK activation and induced apoptosis in mutated MYD88 WM and ABC DLBCL cells. Docking and pull-down studies confirmed that HCK was a target of ibrutinib. Ibrutinib and A419259 also blocked adenosine triphosphate binding to HCK, whereas transduction of mutated MYD88 expressing WM cells with a mutated HCK gatekeeper greatly increased the half maximal effective concentration for ibrutinib and A419259. The findings support that HCK expression and activation is triggered by mutated MYD88, supports the growth and survival of mutated MYD88 WM and ABC DLBCL cells, and is a direct target of ibrutinib. HCK represents a novel target for therapeutic development in MYD88-mutated WM and ABC DLBCL, and possibly other diseases driven by mutated MYD88.

  • Submitted January 23, 2016.
  • Accepted April 20, 2016.
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