Background: GSK-3 is a serine-threonine kinase involved in metabolic regulation as well as in the control of many pathways associated to cancer development, including Notch Wnt/β-catenin, Hedgehog, and AKT. It has been demonstrated that association of GSK-3 inhibitors with All-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) significantly improves ATRA-mediated differentiation and cell death of acute promyelocytic (APL) leukaemia cells. However, little is currently known about the contribution of GSK-3 role to non-promyelocytic AML cell response to treatment with chemotherapeutic agents. Aims: In this study, we aim to validate GSK-3 signalling as potent successful therapeutic target in non-promyelocytic AML. For this purpose we tested different GSK-3 for their ability to influence AML cells proliferation and response to Cytarabine (Ara-C) or Idarubicin treatments. Methods: GSK-3 expression was analyzed by Western blot or flow cytometry inAML cell lines (HL-60, THP1, U937) or primary non-promyelocyticAML blast cells (30 samples). AML cellscultured alone or in presence ofhuman bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (hBM-MSCs) were treated with GSK-3 inhibitors, including LiCL, AR-A014418, SB 216763, in association or not with Cytarabine (Ara-C) or Idarubicin. Cell proliferation and cell death were measured by CFSE dilution and TOPRO-3/Annexin-V staining, respectively. Results: Flow cytometry and Western blot analysis in AML samples revealed high expression levels of all GSK-3forms, including total GSK-3α, (Ser21) GSK-3α, total GSK-3β, and (Ser 21) GSK-3β; theseforms were all down-modulated when AML cells were cultured in presence of hBM-MSCs, thus suggesting that GSK-3 plays an important role in transducting micro-environmental signals in AML cells interacting with bone marrow stroma. The treatment of AML cells with increasing concentrations of each GSK-3 inhibitors decreased AML cell viability in a dose-dependent manner; interestingly, hBM-MSCs or peripheral blood mononuclear cells were less sensitive to GSK-3inhibitors. The addition of each inhibitor increased dramatically the AML cell apoptotic rate induced by the addition of Ara-C or Idarubicin in vitro. Notably, LiCl and AR-A014418 were capable of abrogating hBM-MSC-mediated AML cell resistance to apoptosis induced by Ara-C or Idarubicin. Conclusion: Overall our data clearly demonstrated that inhibition of GSK-3 reduced proliferation and chemoresistance of non promyelocytic AML cells. Thus GSK-3 inhibition represents a therapeutic strategy not only for APL but also for other AML subtypes.
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