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Deregulation of the Wilms' tumour gene 1 protein (WT1) by BCR/ABL1 mediates resistance to imatinib in human leukaemia cells

  • Emelie Svensson
  • Karina Vidovic
  • Carin Lassen
  • Johan Richter
  • Tor Olofsson
  • Thoas Fioretos
  • Urban Gullberg
Publishing year: 2007
Language: English
Pages: 2485-2494
Publication/Series: Leukemia : official journal of the Leukemia Society of America, Leukemia Research Fund, U.K
Volume: 21
Issue: 12
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group

Abstract english

The Wilms' tumour gene 1 (WT1) protein is highly expressed in most leukaemias. Co-expression of WT1 and the fusion protein AML1-ETO in mice rapidly induces acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Mechanisms behind expression of WT1, as well as consequences thereof, are still unclear. Here, we report that the fusion protein BCR/ABL1 increases expression of WT1 mRNA and protein via the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K)-Akt pathway. Inhibition of BCR/ABL1 or PI3K activity strongly suppressed transcription from WT1 promoter/enhancer reporters. Forced expression of BCR/ABL1 in normal human progenitor CD34+ cells increased WT1 mRNA and protein, further supporting the notion of BCR/ABL1-driven expression of WT1 in human haematopoietic cells. Forced expression of WT1 in K562 cells provided protection against cytotoxic effects of the ABL1 tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib, as judged by effects on viability measured by trypan blue exclusion, metabolic activity, annexin V and DAPI (4', 6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) staining. None of the isoforms provided any detectable protection against apoptosis induced by arsenic trioxide and only very weak protection against etoposide, indicating that WT1 interferes with specific apoptotic signalling pathways. Our data demonstrate that WT1 expression is induced by oncogenic signalling from BCR/ABL1 and that WT1 contributes to resistance against apoptosis induced by imatinib.


  • Cancer and Oncology


  • Transcriptional mechanisms for the Wilms’ tumor gene 1 (WT1) oncoprotein
  • ISSN: 1476-5551
Thoas Fioretos
E-mail: thoas.fioretos [at]

Principal investigator

Division of Clinical Genetics

+46 46 222 45 95

+46 70 334 33 67