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Wnt5a enhances proliferation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and ERK1/2 phosphorylation via a ROR1/DOCK2-dependent mechanism


Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have high plasma-levels of Wnt5a, which can induce phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and enhance CLL-cell proliferation. Such effects could be inhibited by treatment with an ERK1/2 inhibitor, ERK1/2-specific siRNA, or cirmtuzumab, an anti-ROR1 mAb. The CLL-derived line, MEC1, expresses Wnt5a, but not ROR1. MEC1 cells transfected to express ROR1 (MEC1-ROR1) had higher levels of phosphorylated ERK1/2 than parental MEC1, or MEC1 transfected with ROR1ΔPRD, a truncated ROR1 lacking the cytoplasmic proline-rich domain (PRD), or ROR1P808A a mutant ROR1 with a P→A substitution at 808, which is required for complexing with the Rac-specific-guanine-nucleotide-exchange factor DOCK2 upon stimulation with Wnt5a. We silenced DOCK2 with siRNA and found this repressed the capacity of Wnt5a to induce ERK1/2 phosphorylation in MEC1-ROR1 or CLL cells. CLL cells that expressed ROR1 had higher levels of phosphorylated ERK1/2 or DOCK2 than CLL cells lacking ROR1. Although we found ibrutinib could inhibit the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and DOCK2 induced by B-cell-receptor ligation, we found that this drug was unable to inhibit Wnt5a-induced, ROR1-dependent phosphorylation of ERK1/2 or DOCK2. This study demonstrates that Wnt5a can induce activation of ERK1/2 and enhance CLL-cell proliferation via a ROR1/DOCK2-dependent pathway independent of BTK.

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