Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is associated with a chromosomal translocation t(15;17) and successfully differentiated by all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) in vivo as well as in vitro. The PML-retinoic acid receptor α (RARA) oncoprotein, which is generated by the translocation, blocks the differentiation, and ATRA is thought to modulate the dominant negative function of PML-RARA. However, the molecular effect of ATRA on PML-RARA is unknown. In this study, we showed by means of immunoblotting that the expression of PML-RARA decreased within 12 h in APL cells treated with ATRA at concentrations greater than 0.1 µm. The decrease of PML-RARA was associated with restoration of the normal subcellular PML localization. PML-RARA transcripts were not down-regulated by ATRA. However, lactacystin, a specific inhibitor of the proteasome, almost completely inhibited the decrease of PML-RARA. These data indicate that the PML-RARA degradation is accelerated by pharmacological concentrations of ATRA, suggesting that ATRA allows APL cells to differentiate by relieving the differentiation block.

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This work was supported by a grant-in-aid from the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture.

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