Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is associated with apoptosis resistance and defective control of cell growth. Our study describes for the first time a critical role in CLL for the KRAB-zinc finger protein ZNF224. High ZNF224 transcript levels were detected in CLL patients with respect to control cells. Moreover, ZNF224 expression was significantly lowered after conventional chemotherapy treatment in a subset of CLL patients. By in vitro experiments we confirmed that ZNF224 expression is suppressed by fludarabine and demonstrated that ZNF224 is involved in apoptosis resistance in CLL cells. Moreover, we showed that ZNF224 positively modulates cyclin D3 gene expression. Consistently, we observed that alteration of ZNF224 expression leads to defects in cell cycle control. All together, our results strongly suggest that in CLL cells high expression level of ZNF224 can lead to inappropriate cell growth and apoptosis resistance, thus contributing to CLL progression. Targeting ZNF224 could thus improve CLL response to therapy.

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