Imatinib mesylate (Gleevec) inhibits Abl1, c-Kit, and related protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) and serves as a therapeutic for chronic myelogenous leukemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Imatinib also has efficacy against various pathogens, including pathogenic mycobacteria, where it decreases bacterial load in mice, albeit at doses below those used for treating cancer. We report that imatinib at such low doses unexpectedly induces differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors in the bone marrow, augments myelopoiesis but not lymphopoiesis, and increases numbers of myeloid cells in blood and spleen. Whereas progenitor differentiation relies on partial inhibition of c-Kit by imatinib, lineage commitment depends upon inhibition of other PTKs. Thus, imatinib mimics “emergency hematopoiesis,” a physiological innate immune response to infection. Increasing neutrophil numbers by adoptive transfer sufficed to reduce mycobacterial load, and imatinib reduced bacterial load of Franciscella spp., which do not utilize imatinib-sensitive PTKs for pathogenesis. Thus, potentiation of the immune response by imatinib at low doses may facilitate clearance of diverse microbial pathogens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology