Receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)-dependent signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) of childhood. However, the RTK-dependent signaling state and its interpretation with regard to biological behavior are often elusive. To decipher signaling circuits that link RTK activity with biological output in vivo, we established patient-derived xenograft ALL (PDX-ALL) models with dependencies on fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) and platelet-derived growth factor receptor b (PDGFRB), which were interrogated by phosphoproteomics using iTRAQ mass spectrometry. Signaling circuits were determined by receptor type and cellular context with few generic features, among which we identified group I p21-activated kinases (PAKs) as potential therapeutic targets. Growth factor stimulation markedly increased catalytic activities of PAK1 and PAK2. RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated or pharmacological inhibition of PAKs using allosteric or adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-competitive compounds attenuated cell growth and increased apoptosis in vitro. Notably, PAK1- or PAK2-directed RNAi enhanced the antiproliferative effects of the type III RTK and protein kinase C inhibitor midostaurin. Treatment of FLT3- or PDGFRB-dependent ALLs with ATP-competitive PAK inhibitors markedly decreased catalytic activities of both PAK isoforms. In FLT3-driven ALL, this effect was augmented by coadministration of midostaurin resulting in synergistic effects on growth inhibition and apoptosis. Finally, combined treatment of FLT3D835H PDX-ALL with the ATP-competitive group I PAK inhibitor FRAX486 and midostaurin in vivo significantly prolonged leukemia progression-free survival compared with midostaurin monotherapy or control. Our study establishes PAKs as potential downstream targets in RTK-dependent ALL of childhood, the inhibition of which might help prevent the selection or acquisition of resistance mutations toward tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
- ms-like tyrosine kinase 3
- platelet-derived growth factor beta-receptor
- receptor protein-tyrosine kinases
- mass spectrometry
- signal transduction
- clinical trials and observations
- lymphoid neoplasia