Vitamin K3 (menadione) Induces Cytotoxicity in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Stem Cells By Upregulating DYRK2 through the Inhibition of SIAH2 Ubiquitin Ligase

Chun Shik Park, Ye Shen, Andrew H Lewis, Koramit Suppipat, Monica Puppi, Julie Tomolonis, Taylor J Chen, Paul Pang, Toni-Ann Mistretta, Leyuan Ma, Michael R Green, Rachel E. Rau and H. Daniel Lacorazza


Leukemic stem cells (LSCs) generated by the transformation of normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) by BCR-ABL are elusive targets that can initiate and sustain leukemia owing to their unique capacity to regenerate themselves during cell division (self-renewal) and differentiate into a bulk of leukemia cells. Although chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) can be successfully managed using tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), drug discontinuation trials have shown that 30-60% of patients, depending on the drug used for first- and second-line treatment, can remain in treatment-free remission. Thus, discontinuation is still considered experimental and there are not safety guidelines to stop treatment. A better understanding of self-renewal mechanisms in LSCs will support the development of LSC-specific drugs to induce treatment-free remission in chronic-phase patients by eradicating BCR-ABL-positive LSCs. We recently discovered in mouse models that deletion of the Klf4 gene encoding for the transcription factor KLF4 severely abrogated progression of BCR-ABL(p210)-induced CML by impairing survival and self-renewal of LSCs but not normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Mechanistically, KLF4 represses the Dyrk2 gene and thus loss-of-KLF4 resulted in elevated DYRK2 protein levels, which was associated with p53-mediated apoptosis and inhibition of self-renewal via depletion of c-Myc protein in LSCs and not in normal HSCs. Here, we report that this mechanism is active in bone marrow cells from chronic-phase CML patients and that stabilization of DYRK2 protein by inhibition of the ubiquitin E3 ligase with vitamin K3 (VK3) has the potential therapeutic approach. Treatment of CML cell lines and bone marrow cells from CML patients with VK3 induced dose-dependent cytotoxicity and apoptosis. This was correlated with increased DYRK2 expression, depletion of c-Myc, and activation of p53-mediated apoptosis. Most importantly, VK3 induced DYRK2 expression and abrogated capacity of purified CD34+ CML stem cells, but not normal CD34+ cells, to generate colonies in methylcellulose assays. Cytotoxicity of VK3 largely depended on the expression of DYRK2, the reduced form menadiol inhibited cell viability similarly to menadione (VK3), and the presence of p53 enhanced cytotoxicity by inducing apoptosis in addition to inhibition of self-renewal. VK3 augmented cytotoxicity of Imatinib in CML cell lines and inhibited cell survival in Imatinib-resistant CML cells. The ability to target CML LSCs was confirmed by in vivo administration of VK3 in BCR-ABL induced mouse model followed by transplantation of leukemic bone marrow in secondary recipient mice. Altogether, our results suggest that stabilization of DYRK2 by inhibition of SIAH2 can induce apoptosis in bulk leukemia cells and LSCs by activating p53 and depleting c-Myc.

Disclosures No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

  • * Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.