Overcoming microenvironment-mediated chemoprotection through stromal galectin-3 inhibition in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Publication Name

International Journal of Molecular Sciences


Environmentally-mediated drug resistance in B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL) significantly contributes to relapse. Stromal cells in the bone marrow environment protect leukemia cells by secretion of chemokines as cues for BCP-ALL migration towards, and adhesion to, stroma. Stromal cells and BCP-ALL cells communicate through stromal galectin-3. Here, we investigated the significance of stromal galectin-3 to BCP-ALL cells. We used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to ablate galectin-3 in stromal cells and found that galectin-3 is dispensable for steady-state BCP-ALL proliferation and viability. However, efficient leukemia migration and adhesion to stromal cells are significantly dependent on stromal galectin-3. Importantly, the loss of stromal galectin-3 production sensitized BCP-ALL cells to conventional chemotherapy. We therefore tested novel carbohydrate-based small molecule compounds (Cpd14 and Cpd17) with high specificity for galectin-3. Consistent with results obtained using galectin-3-knockout stromal cells, treatment of stromal-BCP-ALL co-cultures inhibited BCP-ALL migration and adhesion. Moreover, these compounds induced anti-leukemic responses in BCP-ALL cells, including a dose-dependent reduction of viability and proliferation, the induction of apoptosis and, importantly, the inhibition of drug resistance. Collectively, these findings indicate galectin-3 regulates BCP-ALL cell responses to chemotherapy through the interactions between leukemia cells and the stroma, and show that a combination of galectin-3 inhibition with conventional drugs can sensitize the leukemia cells to chemotherapy.

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Funding Sponsor

National Institutes of Health



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