Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

First Advisor

Dr. Subbarao Bondada


Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is defined by the accumulation of clonally expanded CD5+ and CD19+ B lymphocytes in blood and secondary lymphoid organs with impaired apoptotic mechanisms. CLL represents one third of all leukemia cases with an average age of 72 years at diagnosis making it the most common adult leukemia. The Eµ-Tcl1 mouse serves as an excellent model to study the development of CLL as they progress to a CLL like disease by 9-14 months of age, due to overexpression of an oncogene, T cell Leukemia 1(Tcl1), specifically in B cells through the Ig VH promoter and Eµ enhancer (Bichi et al. PNAS. 2002). In an adoptive transfer model, intravenous or intraperitoneal injection of primary CD5+CD19+ CLL cells from the Eµ-Tcl1 CLL mouse into recipient syngeneic mice leads to the development of a CLL like disease within 3-8 weeks of transfer. We have characterized the growth of CLL cells in these mice by periodic submandibular bleeding, spleen ultrasonography and flow cytometry. We find that Eµ-Tcl1 CLL cells express more Prostate apoptosis response-4 protein (Par-4), a known pro-apoptotic tumor suppressor protein, than normal B-1 or B-2 cells in mice. Par-4 is silenced by promoter methylation in more than 30% of all cancers and has been shown to be secreted and to induce apoptosis selectively in various types of cancer cells but not in normal cells. We found that CLL cells have constitutively active B-cell receptor signaling (BCR) and that inhibition of BCR signaling with FDA approved drugs causes a decrease in Par-4 protein, mRNA levels, and an increase in apoptosis. In particular, activities of Src family kinases, spleen tyrosine kinase and Bruton’s tyrosine kinase are required for Par-4 expression in CLL cells, suggesting a novel regulation of Par-4 through BCR signaling in both Eµ-Tcl1 CLL cells and primary human CLL samples. Consistent with this, lenti-viral shRNA mediated knockdown of Lyn kinase leads to a decrease in Par-4 expression in MEC-1 cells, a human CLL derived cell line. Igα (CD79a) silencing in primary human CLL cells also results in down regulation of Par-4 expression. Additionally, we knocked down expression of Par-4 in MEC-1 cells which resulted in a decrease in cell growth that could be attributed to an increase in p21 expression and a reduction in the G1/S cell cycle transition. We have also observed this phenomenon by crossing mice deficient in Par-4 with the Eµ-Tcl1 mouse where lack of Par-4 delays CLL growth in the mouse significantly (time to euthanization due to poor body condition - Eµ-Tcl1: 8.9mo vs Par4-/-EµTcl1: 11.97 mo, p = 0.0472) and splenic B-CLL cells from these mice also have increased expression of p21. Since mice in this cohort are whole body knockout for Par-4, the difference in survival times between the Par-4 +ve and Par-4 –ve EµTcl1 mice could be due to the influence of Par-4 on CLL cells as well as the effect of Par-4 secreted by the CLL cells on the microenvironment. There could be other potential roles for Par-4 in the context of CLL which are under further investigation. We have also investigated the site of CLL growth in mouse models to determine that the spleen is the primary organ to accumulate the CLL tumor burden. We have found that splenectomy significantly delays the development of CLL in the primary Eμ-Tcl1 mouse model and prevents growth and development in the adoptive transfer model. Interestingly, splenectomy did not delay CLL development as significantly in animals deficient for Par-4 compared to C57BL/6 wild type mice. Par-4 appears to regulate a specific microenvironment required for CLL growth. Current studies are investigating the role of Par-4 in the microenvironment and the cell types that are critical for CLL growth within the splenic niche.

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