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The role of quiescent thymic progenitors in TAL/LMO2-induced T-ALL chemotolerance.

Leukemia 2024 March 30
Relapse in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) may signify the persistence of leukemia-initiating cells (L-ICs). Ectopic TAL1/LMO expression defines the largest subset of T-ALL, but its role in leukemic transformation and its impact on relapse-driving L-ICs remain poorly understood. In TAL1/LMO mouse models, double negative-3 (DN3; CD4- CD8- CD25+ CD44- ) thymic progenitors harbored L-ICs. However, only a subset of DN3 leukemic cells exhibited L-IC activity, and studies linking L-ICs and chemotolerance are needed. To investigate L-IC heterogeneity, we used mouse models and applied single-cell RNA-sequencing and nucleosome labeling techniques in vivo. We identified a DN3 subpopulation with a cell cycle-restricted profile and heightened TAL1/LMO2 activity, that expressed genes associated with stemness and quiescence. This dormant DN3 subset progressively expanded throughout leukemogenesis, displaying intrinsic chemotolerance and enrichment in genes linked to minimal residual disease. Examination of TAL/LMO patient samples revealed a similar pattern in CD7+ CD1a- thymic progenitors, previously recognized for their L-IC activity, demonstrating cell cycle restriction and chemotolerance. Our findings substantiate the emergence of dormant, chemotolerant L-ICs during leukemogenesis, and demonstrate that Tal1 and Lmo2 cooperate to promote DN3 quiescence during the transformation process. This study provides a deeper understanding of TAL1/LMO-induced T-ALL and its clinical implications in therapy failure.

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