High TCL1 expression and intact T-cell receptor signaling define a hyperproliferative subset of T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia
The T-cell leukemia 1 (TCL1) oncoprotein is overexpressed by chromosomal rearrangement in the majority of cases of T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL). In vitro, TCL1 can modulate the activity of the serine-threonine kinase AKT, a downstream effector of T-cell receptor (TCR) signaling. In a series of 86 T-PLL tumors, we show that expression of TCR, and levels of TCL1 and activated AKT are adverse prognostic markers. High-level TCL1 in TCR-expressing T-PLL is associated with higher presenting white blood cell counts, faster tumor cell doubling, and enhanced in vitro growth response to TCR engagement. In primary tumors and TCL1-transfected T-cell lines, TCR engagement leads to rapid recruitment of TCL1 and AKT to transient membrane activation complexes that include TCR-associated tyrosine kinases, including LCK. Pharmacologic inhibition of AKT activation alters the localization, stability, and levels of these transient TCL1-AKT complexes and reduces tumor cell growth. Experimental introduction and knockdown of TCL1 influence the kinetics and strength of TCR-mediated AKT activation. We propose that in T-PLL, TCL1 represents a highly regulated, targetable modulator of TCR-mediated AKT growth signaling.