Isolation of a highly quiescent subpopulation of primitive leukemic cells in chronic myeloid leukemia.Blood 1999; 94(6):2056-64Blood
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is characterized by an increased proliferative activity of the leukemic progenitors that produce an elevated number of mature granulocytes. Nevertheless, cell cycle-active agents, even in very high doses, are alone unable to eradicate the leukemic clone, suggesting the presence of a rare subset of quiescent leukemic stem cells. To isolate such cells, we first used Hoechst 33342 and Pyronin Y staining to obtain viable G(0) and G(1)/S/G(2)/M fractions of CD34(+) cells by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) from 6 chronic-phase CML patients' samples and confirmed the quiescent and cycling status of the 2 fractions by demonstration of expected patterns of Ki-67 and D cyclin expression. Leukemic (Ph(+)/BCR-ABL(+)) cells with in vitro progenitor activity and capable of engrafting immunodeficient mice were identified in the directly isolated G(0) cells. Single-cell reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis showed that many leukemic CD34(+) G(0) cells also expressed BCR-ABL mRNA. CD34(+) from 8 CML patients were also labeled with carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl diester (CFSE) before being cultured (with and without added growth factors) to allow viable cells that had remained quiescent (ie, CFSE(+)) after 4 days to be retrieved by FACS. Leukemic progenitors were again detected in all quiescent populations isolated by this second strategy, including those exposed to a combination of flt3-ligand, Steel factor, interleukin-3, interleukin-6, and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor. These findings provide the first direct and definitive evidence of a deeply but reversibly quiescent subpopulation of leukemic cells in patients with CML with both in vitro and in vivo stem cell properties.