Opposite effects of the acute promyelocytic leukemia PML-retinoic acid receptor α (RARα) and PLZF-RARα fusion proteins on retinoic acid signalling

Martin Ruthardt, Ugo Testa, Clara Nervi, Pier Francesco Ferrucci, Francesco Grignani, Elena Puccetti, Fausto Grignani, Cesare Peschle, Pier Giuseppe Pelicci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fusion proteins involving the retinoic acid receptor α (RARα) and the PML or PLZF nuclear protein are the genetic markers of acute promyelocytic leukemias (APLs). APLs with the PML-RARα or the PLZF-RARα fusion protein are phenotypically indistinguishable except that they differ in their sensitivity to retinoic acid (RA)-induced differentiation: PML-RARα blasts are sensitive to RA and patients enter disease remission after RA treatment, while patients with PLZF-RARα do not. We here report that (i) like PML- RARα expression, PLZF-RARα expression blocks terminal differentiation of hematopoietic precursor cell lines (U937 and HL-60) in response to different stimuli (vitamin D3, transforming growth factor β1, and dimethyl sulfoxide); (ii) PML-RARα, but not PLZF-RARα, increases RA sensitivity of hematopoietic precursor cells and restore RA sensitivity of RA-resistant hematopoietic cells; (iii) PML-RARα and PLZF-RARα have similar RA binding affinities; and (iv) PML-RARα enhances the RA response of RA target genes (those for RARβ, RARγ, and transglutaminase type II [TGase]) in vivo, while PLZF-RARα expression has either no effect (RARβ) or an inhibitory activity (RARγ and type II TGase). These data demonstrate that PML-RARα and PLZF- RARα have similar (inhibitory) effects on RA-independent differentiation and opposite (stimulatory or inhibitory) effects on RA-dependent differentiation and that they behave in vivo as RA-dependent enhancers or inhibitors of RA- responsive genes, respectively. Their different activities on the RA signalling pathway might underlie the different responses of PML-RARα and PLZF-RARα APLs to RA treatment. The PLZF-RARα fusion protein contains an approximately 120-amino-acid N-terminal motif (called the POZ domain), which is also found in a variety of zinc finger proteins and a group of poxvirus proteins and which mediates protein-protein interactions. Deletion of the PLZF POZ domain partially abrogated the inhibitory effect of PLZF-RARα on RA-induced differentiation and on RA-mediated type II TGase up-regulation, suggesting that POZ-mediated protein interactions might be responsible for the inhibitory transcriptional activities of PLZF-RARα.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4859-4869
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Opposite effects of the acute promyelocytic leukemia PML-retinoic acid receptor α (RARα) and PLZF-RARα fusion proteins on retinoic acid signalling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this