Dexamethasone-mediated inhibition of Notch signalling blocks the interaction of leukaemia and mesenchymal stromal cells

Helal Mohammed Mohammed Ahmed, Subbaiah Chary Nimmagadda, Yahya S. Al-Matary, Maren Fiori, Tobias May, Daria Frank, Pradeep Kumar Patnana, Christian Récher, Christoph Schliemann, Jan Henrik Mikesch, Thorsten Koenig, Frank Rosenbauer, Wolfgang Hartmann, Jan Tuckermann, Ulrich Dührsen, Wei Lanying, Martin Dugas, Bertram Opalka, Georg Lenz, Cyrus Khandanpour*

*Corresponding author for this work
7 Citations (Scopus)


Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a haematological malignancy characterized by a poor prognosis. Bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (BM MSCs) support leukaemic cells in preventing chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. This encouraged us to investigate leukaemia-BM niche-associated signalling and to identify signalling cascades supporting the interaction of leukaemic cells and BM MSC. Our study demonstrated functional differences between MSCs originating from leukaemic (AML MSCs) and healthy donors (HD MSCs). The direct interaction of leukaemic and AML MSCs was indispensable in influencing AML cell proliferation. We further identified an important role for Notch expression and its activation in AML MSCs contributing to the enhanced proliferation of AML cells. Supporting this observation, overexpression of the intracellular Notch domain (Notch ICN) in AML MSCs enhanced AML cells’ proliferation. From a therapeutic point of view, dexamethasone treatment impeded Notch signalling in AML MSCs resulting in reduced AML cell proliferation. Concurrent with our data, Notch inhibitors had only a marginal effect on leukaemic cells alone but strongly influenced Notch signalling in AML MSCs and abrogated their cytoprotective function on AML cells. In vivo, dexamethasone treatment impeded Notch signalling in AML MSCs leading to a reduced number of AML MSCs and improved survival of leukaemic mice. In summary, targeting the interaction of leukaemic cells and AML MSCs using dexamethasone or Notch inhibitors might further improve treatment outcomes in AML patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)995-1006
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 02.2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)
  • Centers: University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-14 Haematology, Oncology

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