Loss of stress sensor GADD45A promotes stem cell activity and ferroptosis resistance in LGR4/HOXA9-dependent AML

Nom de la revue
Blood Journal
Nunki Hassan, Hangyu Yi, Bilal Malik, Lucie Charlotte Gaspard-Boulinc, Saumya E. E Samaraweera, Debora A. Casolari, Janith A Seneviratne, Anushree Balachandran, Tracy Chew, Alastair Duly, Daniel R. R Carter, Belamy Cheung, Murray Norris, Michelle Haber, Maria Kavallaris, Glenn M. Marshall, Xu Dong Zhang, Tao Liu, Jianlong Wang, Dan A. Liebermann, Richard J. J D'Andrea, Jenny Y. Wang

The overall prognosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) remains dismal, largely due to the inability of current therapies to kill leukemia stem cells (LSCs) with intrinsic resistance. Loss of the stress sensor GADD45A is implicated in poor clinical outcomes but its role in LSCs and AML pathogenesis is unknown. Here we define GADD45A as a key downstream target of LGR4 oncogenic signaling and discover a regulatory role for GADD45A loss in promoting leukemia-initiating activity and oxidative resistance in LGR4/HOXA9-dependent AML, a poor prognosis subset of leukemia. Knockout of GADD45A enhances AML progression in murine and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) mouse models. Deletion of GADD45A induces substantial mutations, increases LSC self-renewal and stemness in vivo and reduces levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), accompanied by decreased response to ROS-associated genotoxic agents (e.g., ferroptosis inducer RSL3) and acquisition of an increasingly aggressive phenotype upon serial transplantation in mice. Our single-cell CITE-seq analysis on patient-derived LSCs in PDX mice and subsequent functional studies in murine LSCs and primary AML patient cells show that loss of GADD45A is associated with resistance to ferroptosis (an iron-dependent oxidative cell death caused by ROS accumulation) through aberrant activation of antioxidant pathways related to iron and ROS detoxification such as FTH1 and PRDX1, upregulation of which correlates with unfavorable outcomes in AML patients. These results reveal a therapy resistance mechanism contributing to poor prognosis and support a role for GADD45A loss as a critical step for leukemia-initiating activity and as a target to overcome resistance in aggressive leukemia.