De novo and acquired drug resistance and subsequent relapse remain major challenges in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). We previously identified that pevonedistat (TAK-924, MLN4924), a first-in-class inhibitor of NEDD8 activating enzyme (NAE), elicits ER stress and has potent in vitro and in vivo efficacy against ALL. However, in pevonedistat-treated ALL cell lines, we found consistent activation of the pro-survival MEK/ERK pathway, which has been associated with relapse and poor outcome in ALL. We uncovered that inhibition of the MEK/ERK pathway in vitro and in vivo sensitized ALL cells to pevonedistat. The observed synergistic apoptotic effect appears to be mediated by inhibition of the MEK/ERK pro-survival cascade leading to de-repression of the pro-apoptotic BIM protein. Mechanistically, Ca2+ influx via the Ca2+-release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channel induced protein kinase C β2 (PKC-β2) was responsible for activation of the MEK/ERK pathway in pevonedistat-treated ALL cells. Sequestration of Ca2+ using BAPTA-AM or blockage of store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE) using BTP-2 both attenuated the compensatory activation of MEK/ERK signaling in pevonedistat-treated ALL cells. Pevonedistat significantly altered the expression of Orai1 and stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1), resulting in significantly decreased STIM1 protein levels relative to Orai1. Further, we identified eIF2α as an important post-transcriptional regulator of STIM1, suggesting that pevonedistat-induced eIF2α de-phosphorylation selectively down-regulates translation of STIM1 mRNA. Consequently, our data suggest that pevonedistat potentially activates SOCE and promotes Ca2+ influx leading to activation of the MEK/ERK pathway by altering the stoichiometric Orai1:STIM1 ratio and inducing ER stress in ALL cells.
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
- MEK/ERK signaling
- Store operated calcium entry
ASJC Scopus subject areas