Blood 2006 May 9;107(10):4003-10. Epub 2006 Feb 9.
Department of Biochemistry, BioSciences Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.
The Bcr-Abl oncoprotein plays a major role in the development and progression of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Several studies have suggested that the expression levels of Bcr-Abl are elevated at disease progression to blast crisis and that this plays a significant role in the achievement of drug resistance. We have established cell lines expressing low and high levels of Bcr-Abl to study the molecular mechanisms involved in disease progression and drug resistance. It is now known that the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) can play a major role in the regulation of apoptosis. We therefore investigated whether Bcr-Abl expression modulates ER homeostasis and interferes with ER-mediated apoptotic pathways to promote survival. Bcr-Abl-expressing cells exhibit a decreased amount of free releasable calcium in the ER as well as a weaker capacitative calcium entry response, relative to parental cells. This effect is independent of Bcl-2, which is a known modulator of ER calcium homeostasis. The reduction in ER releasable calcium results in inhibition of the ER/mitochondria-coupling process and mitochondrial calcium uptake. This study demonstrates a novel downstream consequence of Bcr-Abl signaling. The ability to negate calcium-dependent apoptotic signaling is likely to be a major prosurvival mechanism in Bcr-Abl-expressing cells.