FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) is one of the most frequently mutated genes in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), with the most common mutation being internal tandem duplications (ITD). The presence of FLT3-ITD in AML carries a particularly poor prognosis and renders therapeutic resistance. New druggable targets are thus needed in this disease. In this study, we demonstrate the effects of de novo creatine biosynthesis upregulation by FLT3-ITD on AML sustainability. Our data show that FLT3-ITD constitutively activates the STAT5 signaling pathway, which upregulates the expression of glycine amidinotransferase (GATM), the first rate-limiting enzyme of de novo creatine biosynthesis. Pharmacologic FLT3-ITD inhibition reduces intracellular creatinine levels through transcriptional downregulation of genes in the de novo creatine biosynthesis pathway. The same reduction can be achieved by cyclocreatine or genetic GATM knockdown with shRNA and is reflected in significant decrease of cell proliferation and moderate increase of cell apoptosis in FLT3-ITD–mutant cell lines. Those effects are at least partially mediated through the AMPK/mTOR signaling pathway. This study uncovers a previously uncharacterized role of creatine metabolic pathway in the maintenance of FLT3-ITD–mutant AML and suggests that targeting this pathway may serve as a promising therapeutic strategy for FLT3-ITD–positive AML.

Implications:

FLT3-ITD mutation in AML upregulates de novo creatine biosynthesis that we show can be suppressed to diminish the proliferation and survival of blast cells.

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