Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Experimental Hematology and Oncology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research

Vincristine could partly suppress stromal support to T-ALL blasts during pegylated arginase I treatment

Fung Kwong-Lam and Chan Godfrey Chi-Fung*

Author Affiliations

Department of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR, China

For all author emails, please log on.

Experimental Hematology & Oncology 2013, 2:11  doi:10.1186/2162-3619-2-11

Published: 10 April 2013



Relapsed T-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) has been an incurable disease. Recent reports showed that an L-arginine depleting enzyme, pegylated arginase (BCT-100) may be effective against T-ALL cells. On the other hand, studies including ours had shown the symbiosis of ALL blasts and human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSCs) in bone marrow microenvironment during L-asparaginase treatment. As L-asparaginase and BCT-100 both act by depleting lymphoid cells of specific amino acid, we hypothesized that hMSCs may also protect T-ALL blasts from BCT-100 treatment in co-culture and such protection may be abrogated by pre-treating hMSCs with vincristine (VCR).


XTT assay was used to test sensitivities of T-ALL cell lines and hMSCs to BCT-100. Apoptosis of T-ALL cell lines with or without BCT-100 treatment were tested by annexin V / propidium iodide (AV/PI) assay using flow cytometer. Western blotting was performed to analyze the expression of ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC), an enzyme involved in L-arginine metabolism which may account for BCT-100 resistance.


hMSCs were resistant to BCT-100 while CCRF-CEM, Jurkat and MOLT-4 were very sensitive to it. hMSCs could protect all the three cell lines from BCT-100 treatment in transwell co-culture. All the 3 T-ALL cell lines were also found to be rescued by an L-arginine precursor citrulline, while the breakdown product of BCT-100, ornithine only had limited salvaging effect on CCRF-CEM but not Jurkat and MOLT-4. Both hMSCs and 3 T-ALL cell lines express citrulline synthesis enzyme, ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) at basal level while only hMSCs could express OTC at relatively higher level under BCT-100 treatment. Treating hMSCs with vincristine before co-culturing with T-ALL could resume the cytotoxicity of BCT-100 to CCRF-CEM and MOLT-4 cells.


Our results suggest a possible strategy to overcome resistance to BCT-100 from cancer microenvironments by suppressing hMSCs either in marrow or in the perivascular niche using vincristine.

Arginase; Bone marrow; Lymphoid leukemic cells; Mesenchymal stromal cell; Ornithine transcarbamylase; Stromal suppression