cis-Retinoic acid stimulates the clonal growth of some myeloid leukemia cells in vitro

H. J. Lawrence, K. Conner, M. A. Kelly, M. R. Haussler, P. Wallace, G. C. Bagby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We studied the effects of cis-retinoic acid (cisRA) on the clonogenic growth of samples of leukemic cells from 35 patients with acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL). We observed significant inhibition of leukemic colony growth in 17 samples by 10-7 to 10-6 M cisRA. However, we found that retinoic exposure resulted in striking stimulation of clonal growth in ten samples at the same drug concentrations. With the exception of cases with promyelocytic features, there was no morphologic or functiona evidence that cisRA induced the leukemic blasts to differentiate. Both inhibition and stimulation were dose-dependent and observable at pharmacologically achievable levels of cisRA. Leukemic cells with monocytic features more frequently demonstrated a stimulatory response than did those without monocytic features. Depletion of T lymphocytes and monocytes did not alter the type of growth response. Assays for cellular retinoic acid-binding protein (CRABP) were performed on five samples (two with inhibitory growth responses, two with stimulatory responses, and one with no growth) and failed to reveal detectable levels of CRABP in any case. The addition of cisRA to liquid suspensions of leukemic cells produced no significant change in the number of viable cells. We conclude that the effects of cisRA on leukemic colony growth are not cytotoxic and not mediated by T lymphocytes, monocytes, or CRABP. More importantly, cisRA appears to enhance the growth of certain human leukemia cells in vitro. Taking into account the increasing use of retinoids in clinical trials for patients with leukemia, the latter findings may represent a significant cautionary note.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-307
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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