During recent years, reports have shown that biological responses of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cells to retinoids are more complex than initially envisioned. PML-RARα chimeric protein disturbs various biological processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. The distinct biological programs that regulate these processes stem from specific transcriptional activation of distinct (but overlapping) sets of genes. These programs are sometimes mutually exclusive and depend on whether the signals are delivered by RAR or RXR agonists. Furthermore, evidence that retinoid nuclear signaling by retinoid, on its own, is not enough to trigger these cellular responses is rapidly accumulating. Indeed, work with NB4 cells show that the fate of APL cells treated by retinoid depends on complex signaling cross-talk. Elucidation of the sequence of events and cascades of transcriptional regulation necessary for APL cell maturation will be an additional tool with which to further improve therapy by retinoids. In this task, the classical techniques used to analyze gene expression have proved time consuming, and their yield has been limited. Global analyses of the APL cell transcriptome are needed. We review the technical approaches currently available (differential display, complementary DNA microarrays), to identify novel genes involved in the determination of cell fate.
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