Acquired uniparental disomy (aUPD) is a common feature of cancer genomes, leading to loss of heterozygosity. aUPD is associated not only with loss-of-function mutations of tumour suppressor genes, but also with gain-of-function mutations of proto-oncogenes. Here we show unique gain-of-function mutations of the C-CBL (also known as CBL) tumour suppressor that are tightly associated with aUPD of the 11q arm in myeloid neoplasms showing myeloproliferative features. The C-CBL proto-oncogene, a cellular homologue of v-Cbl, encodes an E3 ubiquitin ligase and negatively regulates signal transduction of tyrosine kinases. Homozygous C-CBL mutations were found in most 11q-aUPD-positive myeloid malignancies. Although the C-CBL mutations were oncogenic in NIH3T3 cells, c-Cbl was shown to functionally and genetically act as a tumour suppressor. C-CBL mutants did not have E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, but inhibited that of wild-type C-CBL and CBL-B (also known as CBLB), leading to prolonged activation of tyrosine kinases after cytokine stimulation. c-Cbl(-/-) haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) showed enhanced sensitivity to a variety of cytokines compared to c-Cbl(+/+) HSPCs, and transduction of C-CBL mutants into c-Cbl(-/-) HSPCs further augmented their sensitivities to a broader spectrum of cytokines, including stem-cell factor (SCF, also known as KITLG), thrombopoietin (TPO, also known as THPO), IL3 and FLT3 ligand (FLT3LG), indicating the presence of a gain-of-function that could not be attributed to a simple loss-of-function. The gain-of-function effects of C-CBL mutants on cytokine sensitivity of HSPCs largely disappeared in a c-Cbl(+/+) background or by co-transduction of wild-type C-CBL, which suggests the pathogenic importance of loss of wild-type C-CBL alleles found in most cases of C-CBL-mutated myeloid neoplasms. Our findings provide a new insight into a role of gain-of-function mutations of a tumour suppressor associated with aUPD in the pathogenesis of some myeloid cancer subsets.
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