The role of JAK2 V617F mutation, spontaneous erythropoiesis and megakaryocytopoiesis, hypersensitive platelets, activated leukocytes, and endothelial cells in the etiology of thrombotic manifestations in polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia

Sylvia Bellucci, Jan J Michiels
Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis 2006, 32 (4 Pt 2): 381-98
Exaggerated erythropoiesis and megakaryocytopoiesis are present at a variable extent in polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET). With the recent discovery of the V617F mutation in the Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) tyrosine kinase in almost all cases of PV and in a subset of patients with ET, studies are now pending to assess the role of this mutation in the hematopoietic cell activation process and/or in the occurrence of thromboses in ET and PV. The JAK2 V617F point mutation makes the normal hematopoietic progenitor cells hypersensitive to thrombopoietin, erythropoietin, and myeloid progenitor cells, leading to trilinear hematopoietic myeloproliferation. This will have three main clinical consequences during long-term follow-up. First, spontaneous growth of enlarged mature megakaryocytes in ET/PV with overproduction of hypersensitive platelets results in a broad spectrum of platelet-mediated microvascular circulatory disturbances, which are very sensitive to low-dose aspirin. Second, spontaneous growth of erythropoiesis with the overproduction of erythrocytes leads to classic PV with increased hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red cell mass. This is associated with a high frequency of major arterial and venous thrombotic complications in addition to platelet-mediated microvascular circulatory disturbances of thrombocythemia. Third, the slowly progressive myeloid (granulocytic) metaplasia in bone marrow and spleen is complicated by secondary myelofibrosis caused by a megakaryocytic/granulocytic cytokine storm in about one fourth to one third of JAK2 V617F-positive PV patients after long-term follow-up, with no tendency of leukemic transformation as long as they are not treated with myelosuppressive agents. Randomized clinical trials directly comparing phlebotomy versus hydroxyurea or interferon alpha versus hydroxyurea in PV with progressive disease are lacking. Heterozygous V617F mutation is enough to produce the clinical picture of ET with a slight tendency to increased hemoglobin and hematocrit (early PV mimicking ET). Homozygous V617F mutation is associated with the clinical picture of classic PV and with a higher tendency to secondary myelofibrosis, but with no increased leukemia unless other biological or genetic factors come into play, such as myelosuppressive agents or the acquisition of additional biologic or genetic defects. Depending on the biological background of individual patients, heterozygous and homozygous JAK2 V617F ET/PV may preferentially induce myeloid metaplasia with myelofibrosis with a relative suppression of megakaryocytic and erythropoietic myeloproliferation leading to clinical pictures of fibrotic chronic idiopathic myelofibrosis (CIMF) or agnogenic myeloid metaplasia. The main conclusion is that JAK2 V617F is a 100% specific clue to a new distinct clonal myeloproliferative disorder. JAK2 V617F-positive ET/PV and CIMF should be distinguished from wild-type JAK2 ET, rare cases of PV, and CIMF, and should be evaluated during life-long follow-up.

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