Recent insights into the mechanisms of myeloid leukemogenesis in Down syndrome.
Gurbuxani S., Vyas P., Crispino JD.
GATA-1 is the founding member of a transcription factor family that regulates growth and maturation of a diverse set of tissues. GATA-1 is expressed primarily in hematopoietic cells and is essential for proper development of erythroid cells, megakaryocytes, eosinophils, and mast cells. Although loss of GATA-1 leads to differentiation arrest and apoptosis of erythroid progenitors, absence of GATA-1 promotes accumulation of immature megakaryocytes. Recently, we and others have reported that mutagenesis of GATA1 is an early event in Down syndrome (DS) leukemogenesis. Acquired mutations in GATA1 were detected in the vast majority of patients with acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (DS-AMKL) and in nearly every patient with transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD), a "preleukemia" that may be present in as many as 10% of infants with DS. Although the precise pathway by which mutagenesis of GATA1 contributes to leukemia is unknown, these findings confirm that GATA1 plays an important role in both normal and malignant hematopoiesis. Future studies to define the mechanism that results in the high frequency of GATA1 mutations in DS and the role of altered GATA1 in TMD and DS-AMKL will shed light on the multistep pathway in human leukemia and may lead to an increased understanding of why children with DS are markedly predisposed to leukemia.