Prognostic impact of δ-like ligand 4 and Notch1 in acute myeloid leukemia.
ABSTRACT Notch signaling plays a critical role in embryonic vascular development and tumor angiogenesis. The present study was conducted to investigate the prognostic role of the angiogenesis-related Notch ligand and the receptor in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and assess whether their expression correlates with that of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and angiopoietin (Ang)-2. Bone marrow mononuclear cells from 60 untreated AML patients and 40 healthy controls were obtained. Real-time RT-PCR was performed to evaluate the mRNA expression of δ-like ligand 4 (Dll4), Notch1, VEGF, VEGF receptor (VEGFR)-1, VEGFR-2, Ang-1, Ang-2 and Tie2. Western blot analysis was used to determine the protein levels of Dll4 and Notch1. The results demonstrated that Dll4, Notch1, VEGF, VEGFR-2 and Ang-2 expression were significantly higher in untreated AML patients than in the controls. Univariate analysis of factors associated with the overall survival showed a significantly shorter survival in patients with the unfavorable karyotype, higher Dll4 expression, higher Notch1 expression, higher VEGF expression or higher Ang-2 expression. Furthermore, multivariate analysis revealed that the karyotype and expression levels of Notch1, Dll4, VEGF and Ang-2 were independent prognostic factors for overall survival. Additionally, the prognostic value of Dll4 expression (but not Notch1) was more significant in the subgroup consisting of patients with intermediate-risk cytogenetics. Subgroup analysis showed that Notch1 and Dll4 expression levels had a prognostic impact on patients with high VEGF or Ang-2 levels. Taken together, our data provide evidence that the activation of the Notch pathway may indicate an unfavorable prognosis in AML. In particular, Dll4 may be a relevant prognostic marker in intermediate-risk AML.