Pre-leukemic clones carrying DNMT3A mutations have a selective advantage and an inherent chemo-resistance, however the basis for this phenotype has not been fully elucidated. Mutations affecting the gene TP53 occur in pre-leukemic hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (preL-HSPCs) and lead to chemo-resistance. Many of these mutations cause a conformational change and some of them were shown to enhance self-renewal capacity of preL-HSPCs.
Intriguingly, a misfolded P53 was described in AML blasts that do not harbor mutations in TP53, emphasizing the dynamic equilibrium between wild-type (WT) and “pseudo-mutant” conformations of P53.
By combining single cell analyses and P53 conformation-specific monoclonal antibodies we studied preL-HSPCs from primary human DNMT3A-mutated AML samples. We found that while leukemic blasts express mainly the WT conformation, in preL-HSPCs the pseudomutant conformation is the dominant. HSPCs from non-leukemic samples expressed both conformations to a similar extent. In a mouse model we found a small subset of HSPCs with a dominant pseudo-mutant P53. This subpopulation was significantly larger among DNMT3AR882H-mutated HSPCs, suggesting that while a pre-leukemic mutation can predispose for P53 misfolding, additional factors are involved as well.
Treatment with a short peptide that can shift the dynamic equilibrium favoring the WT conformation of P53, specifically eliminated preL-HSPCs that had dysfunctional canonical P53 pathway activity as reflected by single cell RNA sequencing.
Our observations shed light upon a possible targetable P53 dysfunction in human preLHSPCs carrying DNMT3A mutations. This opens new avenues for leukemia prevention.
Figures & Tables
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.