CASZ1 is a conserved transcription factor involved in neural development, blood vessel assembly and heart morphogenesis. CASZ1 has been implicated in cancer, either suppressing or promoting tumor development depending on the tissue. However, the impact of CASZ1 on hematological tumors remains unknown. Here, we show that the T-cell oncogenic transcription factor TAL1 is a direct positive regulator of CASZ1, that T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) samples at diagnosis overexpress CASZ1b isoform, and that CASZ1b expression in patient samples correlates with PI3KAKT- mTOR signaling pathway activation. In agreement, overexpression of CASZ1b in both Ba/F3 and T-ALL cells leads to the activation of PI3K signaling pathway, which is required for CASZ1b-mediated transformation of Ba/F3 cells in vitro and malignant expansion in vivo. We further demonstrate that CASZ1b cooperates with activated NOTCH1 to promote T-ALL development in zebrafish, and that CASZ1b protects human T-ALL cells from serum deprivation and treatment with chemotherapeutic drugs. Taken together, our studies indicate that CASZ1b is a TAL1-regulated gene that promotes T-ALL development and resistance to chemotherapy.
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