The Lmo2 Oncogene Initiates Leukemia in Mice by Inducing Thymocyte Self-Renewal

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  21 Jan 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182378


The LMO2 oncogene causes a subset of human T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL), including four cases that arose as adverse events in gene therapy trials. To investigate the cellular origin of LMO2-induced leukemia, we used cell fate mapping to study mice in which the Lmo2 gene was constitutively expressed in the thymus. Lmo2 induced self-renewal of committed T cells in the mice more than 8 months prior to the development of overt T-ALL. These self-renewing cells retained the capacity for T cell differentiation but expressed several genes typical of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), suggesting that Lmo2 might reactivate an HSC-specific transcriptional program. Forced expression of one such gene, Hhex, was sufficient to initiate self-renewal of thymocytes in vivo. Thus, Lmo2 promotes the self-renewal of preleukemic thymocytes, providing a mechanism by which committed T cells can then accumulate additional genetic mutations required for leukemic transformation.