ABSTRACT: MLL, involved in many chromosomal translocations associated with acute myeloid and lymphoid leukemia, has >50 known partner genes with which it is able to form in-frame fusions. Characterizing important downstream target genes of MLL and of MLL fusion proteins may provide rational therapeutic strategies for the treatment of MLL-associated leukemia. We explored downstream target genes of the most prevalent MLL fusion protein, MLL-AF4. To this end, we developed inducible MLL-AF4 fusion cell lines in different backgrounds. Overexpression of MLL-AF4 does not lead to increased proliferation in either cell line, but rather, cell growth was slowed compared with similar cell lines inducibly expressing truncated MLL. We found that in the MLL-AF4-induced cell lines, the expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor gene CDKN1B was dramatically changed at both the RNA and protein (p27kip1) levels. In contrast, the expression levels of CDKN1A (p21) and CDKN2A (p16) were unchanged. To explore whether CDKN1B might be a direct target of MLL and of MLL-AF4, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays and luciferase reporter gene assays. MLL-AF4 binds to the CDKN1B promoter in vivo and regulates CDKN1B promoter activity. Further, we confirmed CDKN1B promoter binding by ChIP in MLL-AF4 as well as in MLL-AF9 leukemia cell lines. Our results suggest that CDKN1B is a downstream target of MLL and of MLL-AF4, and that, depending on the background cell type, MLL-AF4 inhibits or activates CDKN1B expression. This finding may have implications in terms of leukemia stem cell resistance to chemotherapy in MLL-AF4 leukemias.
Project description:The most frequent MLL-gene rearrangement found in leukemia is a reciprocal translocation with AF4 on chromosome 4 resulting in the formation of the MLL-AF4 and the AF4-MLL fusion genes. The oncogenic role of MLL-AF4 is documented but the significance of the reciprocal product - AF4-MLL in leukemia is less clear. In the human leukemia cell lines - RS4;11 and SEMK2-M1, both of which express MLL-AF4 and AF4-MLL, we knocked down the expression of AF4-MLL using siRNA. Loss of AF4-MLL had no effect on the growth of either RS4;11 or SEMK2-M1 cells. Furthermore, in SEMK2-M1 cells there were no changes in cell cycle or apoptosis with loss of AF4-MLL. In contrast, knockdown of MLL-AF4 significantly inhibited growth of both RS4;11 and SEMK2-M1. Additionally, in SEMK2-M1 cells, loss of MLL-AF4 led to G2/M cell cycle arrest and increased apoptosis. Overall, these results demonstrate that in t(4;11) leukemia, the MLL-AF4 fusion protein is critical for leukemia cell proliferation and survival while the AF4-MLL fusion product is dispensable.
Project description:MLL-AF4 acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) has a poor prognosis. MicroRNAs (miRNA) are small noncoding RNAs that posttranscriptionally regulate expression of target mRNAs. Our analysis of previously published data showed that expression of miR-128b and miR-221 is down-regulated in MLL-rearranged ALL relative to other types of ALL. Reexpression of these miRNAs cooperatively sensitizes 2 cultured lines of MLL-AF4 ALL cells to glucocorticoids. Target genes down-regulated by miR-128b include MLL, AF4, and both MLL-AF4 and AF4-MLL fusion genes; miR-221 down-regulates CDKN1B. These results demonstrate that down-regulation of miR-128b and miR-221 is implicated in glucocorticoid resistance and that restoration of their levels is a potentially promising therapeutic in MLL-AF4 ALL.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Circular RNAs (circRNAs) represent a type of endogenous noncoding RNAs that are generated by back-splicing events and favor repetitive sequences. Recent studies have reported that cancer-associated chromosomal translocations could juxtapose distant complementary repetitive intronic sequences, resulting in the aberrant formation of circRNAs. However, among the reported fusion genes, only a small number of circRNAs were found to originate from fusion regions during gene translocation. We question if circRNAs could also originate from fusion partners during gene translocation. METHODS:Firstly, we designed divergent primers for qRT-PCR to identify a circRNA circAF4 in AF4 gene and investigated the expression pattern in different types of leukemia samples. Secondly, we designed two small interfering RNAs specially targeting the back-spliced junction point of circAF4 for functional studies. CCK8 cell proliferation and cell cycle assay were performed, and a NOD-SCID mouse model was used to investigate the contribution of circAF4 in leukemogenesis. Finally, luciferase reporter assay, AGO2 RNA immunoprecipitation (RIP), and RNA Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization (FISH) were performed to confirm the relationship of miR-128-3p, circAF4, and MLL-AF4 expression. RESULTS:We discovered a circRNA, named circAF4, originating from the AF4 gene, a partner of the MLL fusion gene in MLL-AF4 leukemia. We showed that circAF4 plays an oncogenic role in MLL-AF4 leukemia and promotes leukemogenesis in vitro and in vivo. More importantly, knockdown of circAF4 increases the leukemic cell apoptosis rate in MLL-AF4 leukemia cells, while no effect was observed in leukemia cells that do not carry the MLL-AF4 translocation. Mechanically, circAF4 can act as a miR-128-3p sponge, thereby releasing its inhibition on MLL-AF4 expression. We finally analyzed most of the MLL fusion genes loci and found that a number of circRNAs could originate from these partners, suggesting the potential roles of fusion gene partner-originating circRNAs (named as FP-circRNAs) in leukemia with chromosomal translocations. CONCLUSION:Our findings demonstrate that the abnormal elevated expression of circAF4 regulates the cell growth via the circAF4/miR-128-3p/MLL-AF4 axis, which could contribute to leukemogenesis, suggesting that circAF4 may be a novel therapeutic target of MLL-AF4 leukemia.
Project description:Chromosome rearrangements involving the mixed-lineage leukemia gene (MLL) create MLL-fusion proteins, which could drive both acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The lineage decision of MLL-fusion leukemia is influenced by the fusion partner and microenvironment. To investigate the interplay of fusion proteins and microenvironment in lineage choice, we transplanted human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) expressing MLL-AF9 or MLL-Af4 into immunodeficient NSGS mice, which strongly promote myeloid development. Cells expressing MLL-AF9 efficiently developed AML in NSGS mice. In contrast, MLL-Af4 cells, which were fully oncogenic under lymphoid conditions present in NSG mice, displayed compromised transformation capacity in a myeloid microenvironment. MLL-Af4 activated a self-renewal program in a lineage-dependent manner, showing the leukemogenic activity of MLL-Af4 was interlinked with lymphoid lineage commitment. The C-terminal homology domain (CHD) of Af4 was sufficient to confer this linkage. Although the MLL-CHD fusion protein failed to immortalize HSPCs in myeloid conditions in vitro, it could successfully induce ALL in NSG mice. Our data suggest that defective self-renewal ability and leukemogenesis of MLL-Af4 myeloid cells could contribute to the strong B-cell ALL association of MLL-AF4 leukemia observed in the clinic.
Project description:MLL-rearranged acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in infants (<1 year) is characterized by high relapse rates and a dismal prognosis. To facilitate the discovery of novel therapeutic targets, we here searched for genes directly influenced by the repression of various MLL fusions.For this, we performed gene expression profiling after siRNA-mediated repression of MLL-AF4, MLL-ENL, and AF4-MLL in MLL-rearranged ALL cell line models. The obtained results were compared with various already established gene signatures including those consisting of known MLL-AF4 target genes, or those associated with primary MLL-rearranged infant ALL samples.Genes that were down-regulated in response to the repression of MLL-AF4 and MLL-ENL appeared characteristically expressed in primary MLL-rearranged infant ALL samples, and often represented known MLL-AF4 targets genes. Genes that were up-regulated in response to the repression of MLL-AF4 and MLL-ENL often represented genes typically silenced by promoter hypermethylation in MLL-rearranged infant ALL. Genes that were affected in response to the repression of AF4-MLL showed significant enrichment in gene expression profiles associated with AF4-MLL expressing t(4;11)+ infant ALL patient samples.We conclude that the here identified genes readily responsive to the loss of MLL fusion expression potentially represent attractive therapeutic targets and may provide additional insights in MLL-rearranged acute leukemias.
Project description:The aim of this study was to better understand how mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) fusion proteins deregulate the expression of genes critical for leukemia.The transforming domain of one of the most common MLL fusion partners, AF9, was immunopurified after expression in myeloblastic M1 cells, and associating proteins were identified by mass spectrometric analysis. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to determine how binding of associating proteins compare across Hoxa9 and Meis1 in cell lines with and without MLL fusion proteins and how binding is altered during gene down-regulation and differentiation.Consistent with earlier purifications of ENL and AF4 from 293 cells, the 90 amino acid C-terminal domain of AF9 associates with many other MLL translocation partners including Enl, Af4, Laf4, Af5q31, Ell, and Af10. This complex, termed elongation assisting proteins (EAPs), also contains the RNA polymerase II C-terminal domain kinase Cdk9/Cyclin T1/T2 (pTEFb) and the histone H3 lysine 79 methyltransferase Dot1L. Myeloid cells transformed by MLL fusions show higher levels and a broader distribution of EAP components at genes critical for leukemia. Inhibition of EAP components pTEFb and Dot1l show that both contribute significantly to activation of Hoxa9 and Meis1 expression. EAP is dynamically associated with the Hoxa9 and Meis1 loci in hematopoietic cells and rapidly dissociates during induction of differentiation. In the presence of MLL fusion proteins, its dissociation is prevented.The findings suggest that MLL fusion proteins deregulate genes critical for leukemia by excessive recruitment and impaired dissociation of EAP from target loci.
Project description:The Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) protein is an important epigenetic regulator required for the maintenance of gene activation during development. MLL chromosomal translocations produce novel fusion proteins that cause aggressive leukemias in humans. Individual MLL fusion proteins have distinct leukemic phenotypes even when expressed in the same cell type, but how this distinction is delineated on a molecular level is poorly understood. Here, we highlight a unique molecular mechanism whereby the RUNX1 gene is directly activated by MLL-AF4 and the RUNX1 protein interacts with the product of the reciprocal AF4-MLL translocation. These results support a mechanism of transformation whereby two oncogenic fusion proteins cooperate by activating a target gene and then modulating the function of its downstream product.
Project description:All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is well established as differentiation therapy for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) in which the PML-RAR? (promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor ?) fusion protein causes blockade of the retinoic acid (RA) pathway; however, in types of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) other than APL, the mechanism of RA pathway inactivation is not fully understood. This study revealed the potential mechanism of high ATRA sensitivity of mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL)-AF9-positive AML compared with MLL-AF4/5q31-positive AML. Treatment with ATRA induced significant myeloid differentiation accompanied by upregulation of RAR?, C/EBP?, C/EBP? and PU.1 in MLL-AF9-positive but not in MLL-AF4/5q31-positive cells. Combining ATRA with cytarabine had a synergistic antileukemic effect in MLL-AF9-positive cells in vitro. The level of dimethyl histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me2) in the RAR? gene-promoter region, PU.1 upstream regulatory region (URE) and RUNX1+24/+25 intronic enhancer was higher in MLL-AF9-positive cells than in MLL-AF4-positive cells, and inhibiting lysine-specific demethylase 1, which acts as a histone demethylase inhibitor, reactivated ATRA sensitivity in MLL-AF4-positive cells. These findings suggest that the level of H3K4me2 in the RAR? gene-promoter region, PU.1 URE and RUNX1 intronic enhancer is determined by the MLL-fusion partner. Our findings provide insight into the mechanisms of ATRA sensitivity in AML and novel treatment strategies for ATRA-resistant AML.
Project description:Gene rearrangement of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene causes leukemia by inducing the constitutive expression of a gene subset normally expressed only in the immature haematopoietic progenitor cells. MLL gene rearrangements often generate fusion products of MLL and a component of the AF4 family/ENL family/P-TEFb (AEP) complex. MLL-AEP fusion proteins have the potential of constitutively recruiting the P-TEFb elongation complex. Thus, it is hypothesized that relieving the promoter proximal pausing of RNA polymerase II is the rate-limiting step of MLL fusion-dependent transcription. AEP also has the potential to recruit the mediator complex via MED26. We recently showed that AEP activates transcription initiation by facilitating TBP loading to the TATA element through the SL1 complex. In the present study, we show that the key activity responsible for the oncogenic property of MLL-AEP fusion proteins is the TBP loading activity, and not the mediator recruitment or transcriptional elongation activities. Thus, we propose that TBP loading by AF4 through SL1 is the major rate-limiting step in MLL fusion-dependent transcription.
Project description:Gene rearrangements generate MLL fusion genes, which can lead to aggressive leukemia. In most cases, MLL fuses with a gene encoding a component of the AEP (AF4 family/ENL family/P-TEFb) coactivator complex. MLL-AEP fusion proteins constitutively activate their target genes to immortalize haematopoietic progenitors. Here we show that AEP and MLL-AEP fusion proteins activate transcription through selectivity factor 1 (SL1), a core component of the pre-initiation complex (PIC) of RNA polymerase I (RNAP1). The pSER domain of AF4 family proteins associates with SL1 on chromatin and loads TATA-binding protein (TBP) onto the promoter to initiate RNA polymerase II (RNAP2)-dependent transcription. These results reveal a previously unknown transcription initiation mechanism involving AEP and a role for SL1 as a TBP-loading factor in RNAP2-dependent gene activation.