Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is characterized by a blockage in the differentiation of myeloid cells at different stages. CD44-ligation using anti-CD44 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) has been shown to reverse the blockage of differentiation and to inhibit the proliferation of blasts in most AML-subtypes. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this property have not been fully elucidated. Here, we sought to I) analyze the effects of anti-CD44 mAbs on downstream signaling pathways, including the ERK1/2 (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2) and mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathways and II) use state-of-the-art Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) technology to determine the global metabolic changes during differentiation induction of AML cells using anti-CD44 mAbs and other two previously reported differentiation agents. In the first objective (Chapter 4), our studies provide evidence that CD44-ligation with specific mAbs in AML cells induced an increase in ERK1/2 phosphorylation. The use of the MEK inhibitor (U0126) significantly inhibited the CD44-induced differentiation of HL60 cells, suggesting that ERK1/2 is critical for the CD44-triggered differentiation in AML. In addition, this was accompanied by a marked decrease in the phosphorylation of the mTORC1 and mTORC2 complexes, which are strongly correlated with the inhibition of the PI3K/Akt pathway. In the second objective (Chapter 5), 1H NMR experiments demonstrated that considerable changes in the metabolic profiles of HL60 cells were induced in response to each differentiation agent. These most notable metabolites that significantly changed upon CD44 ligation were involved in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and glycolysis such as, succinate, fumarate and lactate. Therefore, we sought to analyze the mechanisms underlying their alterations. Our results revealed that anti-CD44 mAbs treatment induced upregulation in fumarate hydratase (FH) expression and its activity which was accompanied by a decrease in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) activity. Interestingly, our results indicated that FH induced by anti-CD44 mAb is regulated through the activation of the ERK1/2 pathway. Therefore, our findings highlight new elements in support for the use of anti-CD44 mAbs in AML therapies and open new perspectives to use metabolic profiling as a tool to support the potential possibilities for the development of CD44-targeted therapy of AML.
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