Glucocorticoid (GC) resistance is a crucial determinant of inferior response to chemotherapy in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); however, molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are poorly understood. Deregulated splicing is a common feature of many cancers, which impacts drug response and constitutes an attractive therapeutic target. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to characterize global splicing profiles associated with GC resistance and determine whether splicing modulation could serve as a novel therapeutic option for GC-resistant patients. To this end, 38 primary ALL samples were profiled using RNA-seq-based differential splicing analysis. The impact of splicing modulators was investigated in GC-resistant leukemia cell lines and primary leukemic specimens. Our findings revealed, for the first time, markedly distinct splicing landscapes in ALL samples of B-cell precursor (BCP)-ALL and T-ALL lineages. Differential splicing events associated with GC resistance were involved in RNA processing, a direct response to GCs, survival signaling, apoptosis, cell cycle regulation and energy metabolism. Furthermore, our analyses showed that GC-resistant ALL cell lines and primary samples are sensitive to splicing modulation, alone and in combination with GC. Together, these findings suggest that aberrant splicing is associated with GC resistance and splicing modulators deserve further interest as a novel treatment option for GC-resistant patients.

Alternative splicing, Glucocorticoid resistance, Pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia, RNA sequencing, SF3B modulators,
Department of Immunology

Sciarrillo, R. (Rocco), Wojtuszkiewicz, A. (Anna), Kooi, I.E, Leon, L.G, Sonneveld, E, Kuiper, R.P, … Cloos, J. (2020). Glucocorticoid resistant pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia samples display altered splicing profile and vulnerability to spliceosome modulation. Cancers, 12(3). doi:10.3390/cancers12030723