Zinc-dependent multimerization of mutant calreticulin is required for MPL binding and MPN pathogenesis

Jeanne Rivera, April Baral, Fatima Nadat, Grace Boyd, Rachael Smyth, Hershna Patel, Emma Burman, Ghadah Alameer, Sally Boxall, Brian Jackson, E.Joanna Baxter, Peter Laslo, Anthony Green, David Kent, Ann Mullally, Edwin Chen

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Calreticulin (CALR) is mutated in the majority of JAK2/MPL-unmutated myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Mutant CALR (CALRdel52) exerts its effect by binding to the thrombopoietin receptor MPL to cause constitutive activation of JAK-STAT signaling. In this study, we performed an extensive mutagenesis screen of the CALR globular N-domain and revealed 2 motifs critical for CALRdel52 oncogenic activity: (1) the glycan-binding lectin motif and (2) the zinc-binding domain. Further analysis demonstrated that the zinc-binding domain was essential for formation of CALRdel52 multimers, which was a co-requisite for MPL binding. CALRdel52 variants incapable of binding zinc were unable to homomultimerize, form CALRdel52-MPL heteromeric complexes, or stimulate JAK-STAT signaling. Finally, treatment with zinc chelation disrupted CALRdel52-MPL complexes in hematopoietic cells in conjunction with preferential eradication of cells expressing CALRdel52 relative to cells expressing other MPN oncogenes. In addition, zinc chelators exhibited a therapeutic effect in preferentially impairing growth of CALRdel52-mutant erythroblasts relative to unmutated erythroblasts in primary cultures of MPN patients. Together, our data implicate zinc as an essential cofactor for CALRdel52 oncogenic activity by enabling CALRdel52 multimerization and interaction with MPL, and suggests that perturbation of intracellular zinc levels may represent a new approach to abrogate the oncogenic activity of CALRdel52 in the treatment of MPNs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBlood advances
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021


  • Calreticulin


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