Hyperactivation of the mTOR pathway impairs hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) functions and promotes leukemogenesis. mTORC1 and mTORC2 differentially control normal and leukemic stem cell functions. mTORC1 regulates p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 (S6K1) and eukaryotic initiation factor 4E-binding (eIF4E-binding) protein 1 (4E-BP1), and mTORC2 modulates AKT activation. Given the extensive crosstalk that occurs between mTORC1 and mTORC2 signaling pathways, we assessed the role of the mTORC1 substrate S6K1 in the regulation of both normal HSC functions and in leukemogenesis driven by the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) fusion oncogene MLL-AF9. We demonstrated that S6K1 deficiency impairs self-renewal of murine HSCs by reducing p21 expression. Loss of S6K1 also improved survival in mice transplanted with MLL-AF9-positive leukemic stem cells by modulating AKT and 4E-BP1 phosphorylation. Taken together, these results suggest that S6K1 acts through multiple targets of the mTOR pathway to promote self-renewal and leukemia progression. Given the recent interest in S6K1 as a potential therapeutic target in cancer, our results further support targeting this molecule as a potential strategy for treatment of myeloid malignancies.
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