SOCS1 function in BCR-ABL mediated myeloproliferative disease is dependent on the cytokine environment
Treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors is the standard of care for Philadelphia chromosome positive leukemias. However the eradication of leukemia initiating cells remains a challenge. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the cytokine microenvironment may play a role in BCR-ABL mediated leukemogenesis and in imatinib resistance. Gene expression analyses of BCR-ABL positive ALL long-term cultured cells revealed strong reduction of SOCS mRNA expression after imatinib treatment, thereby demonstrating a strong inhibition of cytokine signaling. In this study we employed SOCS1—a strong inhibitor of cytokine signaling—as a tool to terminate external cytokine signals in BCR-ABL transformed cells in vitro and in vivo. In colony formation assays with primary bone marrow cells, expression of SOCS1 decreased colony numbers under pro-proliferative cytokines, while it conferred growth resistance to anti-proliferative cytokines. Importantly, co-expression of SOCS1 with BCR-ABL led to the development of a MPD phenotype with a prolonged disease latency compared to BCR-ABL alone in a murine bone marrow transplantation model. Interestingly, SOCS1 co-expression protected 20% of mice from MPD development. In summary, we conclude that under pro-proliferative cytokine stimulation at the onset of myeloproliferative diseases SOCS1 acts as a tumor suppressor, while under anti-proliferative conditions it exerts oncogenic function. Therefore SOCS1 can promote opposing functions depending on the cytokine environment.