Hedgehog pathway mutations drive oncogenic transformation in high-risk T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Melissa A. Burns, Zi Wei Liao, Natsuko Yamagata, Gayle P. Pouliot, Kristen E. Stevenson, Donna S. Neuberg, Aaron R. Thorner, Matthew Ducar, Emily A. Silverman, Stephen P. Hunger, Mignon L. Loh, Stuart S. Winter, Kimberly P. Dunsmore, Brent Wood, Meenakshi Devidas, Marian H. Harris, Lewis B. Silverman, Stephen E. Sallan, Alejandro Gutierrez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The role of Hedgehog signaling in normal and malignant T-cell development is controversial. Recently, Hedgehog pathway mutations have been described in T-ALL, but whether mutational activation of Hedgehog signaling drives T-cell transformation is unknown, hindering the rationale for therapeutic intervention. Here, we show that Hedgehog pathway mutations predict chemotherapy resistance in human T-ALL, and drive oncogenic transformation in a zebrafish model of the disease. We found Hedgehog pathway mutations in 16% of 109 childhood T-ALL cases, most commonly affecting its negative regulator PTCH1. Hedgehog mutations were associated with resistance to induction chemotherapy (P = 0.009). Transduction of wild-type PTCH1 into PTCH1-mutant T-ALL cells induced apoptosis (P = 0.005), a phenotype that was reversed by downstream Hedgehog pathway activation (P = 0.007). Transduction of most mutant PTCH1, SUFU, and GLI alleles into mammalian cells induced aberrant regulation of Hedgehog signaling, indicating that these mutations are pathogenic. Using a CRISPR/Cas9 system for lineage-restricted gene disruption in transgenic zebrafish, we found that ptch1 mutations accelerated the onset of notch1-induced T-ALL (P = 0.0001), and pharmacologic Hedgehog pathway inhibition had therapeutic activity. Thus, Hedgehog-activating mutations are driver oncogenic alterations in high-risk T-ALL, providing a molecular rationale for targeted therapy in this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2126-2137
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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