A genome-wide view of the in vitro response to L-asparaginase in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Bernard M. Fine, Gertjan J.L. Kaspers, Minh Ho, Anne H. Loonen, Linda M. Boxer

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101 Citations (Scopus)


To investigate the effect of L-asparaginase on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), we used cDNA microarrays to obtain a genome-wide view of gene expression both at baseline and after in vitro exposure to L-asparaginase in cell lines and pediatric ALL samples. In 16 cell lines, a baseline gene expression pattern distinguished L-asparaginase sensitivity from resistance. However, for 28 pediatric ALL samples, no consistent baseline expression pattern was associated with sensitivity to L-asparaginase. In particular, baseline expression of asparagine synthetase (ASNS) was not predictive of response to L-asparaginase. After exposure to L-asparaginase, 5 cell lines and 10 clinical samples exhibited very similar changes in the expression of a large number of genes. However, the gene expression changes occurred more slowly in the clinical samples. These changes included a consistent increase in expression of tRNA synthetases and solute transporters and activating transcription factor and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein family members, a response similar to that observed with amino acid starvation. There was also a consistent decrease in many genes associated with proliferation. Taken together, the changes seem to reflect a consistent coordinated response to asparagine starvation in both cell lines and clinical samples. Importantly, in the clinical samples, increased expression of ASNS after L-asparaginase exposure was not associated with in vitro resistance to L-asparaginase, indicating that ASNS-independent mechanisms of in vitro L-asparaginase resistance are common in ALL. These results suggest that targeting particular genes involved in the response to amino acid starvation in ALL cells may provide a novel way to overcome L-asparaginase resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-299
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


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