Autocrine HGF/c-Met signaling pathway confers aggressiveness in lymph node adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma


Oncogene. 2020 Aug 4. doi: 10.1038/s41388-020-01393-x. Online ahead of print.


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is an aggressive T-cell neoplasm. While ATL cells in peripheral blood (PB-ATL) are sensitive to anti-CC chemokine receptor 4 treatment, non-PB-ATLs, including lymph node ATLs (LN-ATLs), are more aggressive and resistant. We examined characteristic cytokines and growth factors that allow non-PB-ATLs to proliferate and invade compared with PB-ATLs. Protein array analysis revealed hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and C-C motif chemokine 2 (CCL2) were significantly

upregulated in non-PB-ATLs compared with PB-ATLs. The HGF membrane receptor, c-Met, was expressed in PB-ATL and non-PB-ATL cell lines, but CCR2, a CCL2 receptor, was not. Immunohistochemical analysis in clinical ATLs revealed high HGF expression in LNs, pharynx, bone marrow, and tonsils. The HGF/c-Met signaling pathway was active downstream in non-PB-ATLs. Downregulation of HGF/c-Met by siRNA or chemical inhibitors decreased in vitro and in vivo proliferation and invasion by non-PB-ATLs. Treatment with bromodomain and extra-terminal motif inhibitor suppressed HGF expression and decreased levels of histone H3 lysine 27 acetylation (H3K27Ac) and bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) binding promoter and enhancer regions, suppressing non-PB-ATL cellular growth. Our data indicate H3K27Ac/BRD4 epigenetics regulates the HGF/c-MET pathway in ATLs; targeting this pathway may improve treatment of aggressive non-PB-ATLs.