Microenvironment determines lineage fate in a human model of MLL-AF9 leukemia.
ABSTRACT: Faithful modeling of mixed-lineage leukemia in murine cells has been difficult to achieve. We show that expression of MLL-AF9 in human CD34+ cells induces acute myeloid, lymphoid, or mixed-lineage leukemia in immunodeficient mice. Some leukemia stem cells (LSC) were multipotent and could be lineage directed by altering either the growth factors or the recipient strain of mouse, highlighting the importance of microenvironmental cues. Other LSC were strictly lineage committed, demonstrating the heterogeneity of the stem cell compartment in MLL disease. Targeting the Rac signaling pathway by pharmacologic or genetic means resulted in rapid and specific apoptosis of MLL-AF9 cells, suggesting that the Rac signaling pathway may be a valid therapeutic target in MLL-rearranged AML.
Project description:Oncogenic fusion proteins are capable of initiating tumorigenesis, but the role of their wild-type counterparts in this process is poorly understood. The mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene undergoes chromosomal translocations, resulting in the formation of oncogenic MLL fusion proteins (MLL-FPs). Here, we show that menin recruits both wild-type MLL and oncogenic MLL-AF9 fusion protein to the loci of HOX genes to activate their transcription. Wild-type MLL not only catalyzes histone methylation at key target genes but also controls distinct MLL-AF9-induced histone methylation. Notably, the wild-type Mll allele is required for MLL-AF9-induced leukemogenesis and maintenance of MLL-AF9-transformed cells. These findings suggest an essential cooperation between an oncogene and its wild-type counterpart in MLL-AF9-induced leukemogenesis.
Project description:The 11q23 of the mixed lineage leukemia 1 (MLL1) gene plays a crucial role in early embryonic development and hematopoiesis. The MLL-AF9 fusion gene, resulting from chromosomal translocation, often leads to acute myeloid leukemia with poor prognosis. Here, we generated a zebrafish model expressing the human MLL-AF9 fusion gene. Microinjection of human MLL-AF9 mRNA into zebrafish embryos resulted in enhanced hematopoiesis and the activation of downstream genes such as meis1 and hox cluster genes. Embryonic MLL-AF9 expression upregulated HSPC and myeloid lineage markers. Doxorubicin and MI-2 (a menin inhibitor) treatments significantly restored normal hematopoiesis in MLL-AF9-expressing animals. This study provides insight into the role of MLL-AF9 in zebrafish hematopoiesis and establishes a robust and efficient in vivo model for high-throughput drug screening.
Project description:The proto-oncogene EVI1 (ecotropic viral integration site-1), located on chromosome band 3q26, is aberrantly expressed in human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with 3q26 rearrangements. In the current study, we showed, in a large AML cohort carrying 11q23 translocations, that ? 43% of all mixed lineage leukemia (MLL)-rearranged leukemias are EVI1(pos). High EVI1 expression occurs in AMLs expressing the MLL-AF6, -AF9, -AF10, -ENL, or -ELL fusion genes. In addition, we present evidence that EVI1(pos) MLL-rearranged AMLs differ molecularly, morphologically, and immunophenotypically from EVI1(neg) MLL-rearranged leukemias. In mouse bone marrow cells transduced with MLL-AF9, we show that MLL-AF9 fusion protein maintains Evi1 expression on transformation of Evi1(pos) HSCs. MLL-AF9 does not activate Evi1 expression in MLL-AF9-transformed granulocyte macrophage progenitors (GMPs) that were initially Evi1(neg). Moreover, shRNA-mediated knockdown of Evi1 in an Evi1(pos) MLL-AF9 mouse model inhibits leukemia growth both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that Evi1 provides a growth-promoting signal. Using the Evi1(pos) MLL-AF9 mouse leukemia model, we demonstrate increased sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents on reduction of Evi1 expression. We conclude that EVI1 is a critical player in tumor growth in a subset of MLL-rearranged AMLs.
Project description:Chromosomal translocations involving the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene lead to the development of acute leukemias. Constitutive HOX gene activation by MLL fusion proteins is required for MLL-mediated leukemogenesis; however, the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Here, we show that chromobox homolog 8 (CBX8), a Polycomb Group protein that interacts with MLL-AF9 and TIP60, is required for MLL-AF9-induced transcriptional activation and leukemogenesis. Conversely, both CBX8 ablation and specific disruption of the CBX8 interaction by point mutations in MLL-AF9 abrogate HOX gene upregulation and abolish MLL-AF9 leukemic transformation. Surprisingly, Cbx8-deficient mice are viable and display no apparent hematopoietic defects. Together, our findings demonstrate that CBX8 plays an essential role in MLL-AF9 transcriptional regulation and leukemogenesis.
Project description:Chromosomal translocations of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene are a common cause of acute leukemias. The oncogenic function of MLL fusion proteins is, in part, mediated through aberrant activation of Hoxa genes and Meis1, among others. Here we demonstrate using a tamoxifen-inducible Cre-mediated loss of function mouse model that DOT1L, an H3K79 methyltransferase, is required for both initiation and maintenance of MLL-AF9-induced leukemogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Through gene expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis we demonstrate that mistargeting of DOT1L, subsequent H3K79 methylation, and up-regulation of Hoxa and Meis1 genes underlie the molecular mechanism of how DOT1L contributes to MLL-AF9-mediated leukemogenesis. Our study not only provides the first in vivo evidence for the function of DOT1L in leukemia, but also reveals the molecular mechanism for DOT1L in MLL-AF9 mediated leukemia. Thus, DOT1L may serve as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of leukemia caused by MLL translocations.
Project description:The 'Yamanaka factors' (Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc) are able to generate induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from different cell types. However, to what degree primary malignant cells can be reprogrammed into a pluripotent state has not been vigorously assessed. We established an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) model by overexpressing the human mixed-lineage leukemia-AF9 (MLL-AF9) fusion gene in mouse hematopoietic cells that carry Yamanaka factors under the control of doxycycline (Dox). On addition of Dox to the culture, the transplantable leukemia cells were efficiently converted into iPS cells that could form teratomas and produce chimeras. Interestingly, most chimeric mice spontaneously developed the same type of AML. Moreover, both iPS reprogramming and leukemia reinitiation paths could descend from the same leukemia-initiating cell. RNA-seq analysis showed reversible global gene expression patterns between these interchangeable leukemia and iPS cells on activation or reactivation of MLL-AF9, suggesting a sufficient epigenetic force in driving the leukemogenic process. This study represents an important step for further defining the potential interplay between oncogenic molecules and reprogramming factors during MLL leukemogenesis. More importantly, our reprogramming approach may be expanded to characterize a range of hematopoietic malignancies in order to develop new strategies for clinical diagnosis and treatment.
Project description:Human leukemias harboring chromosomal translocations involving the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL, HRX, ALL-1) gene possess high-level expression, and frequent activating mutations of the receptor tyrosine kinase FLT3. We used a murine bone marrow transplant model to assess cooperation between MLL translocation and FLT3 activation. We demonstrate that MLL-AF9 expression induces acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in approximately 70 days, whereas the combination of MLL-AF9 and FLT3-ITD does so in less than 30 days. Secondary transplantation of splenic cells from diseased mice established that leukemia stem cells are present at a very high frequency of approximately 1:100 in both diseases. Importantly, prospectively isolated granulocyte macrophage progenitors (GMPs) coinfected with MLL-AF9 and FLT3-ITD give rise to a similar AML, with shorter latency than from GMP transduced with MLL-AF9 alone. Cooperation between MLL-AF9 and FLT3-ITD was further verified by real-time assessment of leukemogenesis using noninvasive bioluminescence imaging. We used this model to demonstrate that MLL-AF9/FLT3-ITD-induced leukemias are sensitive to FLT3 inhibition in a 2-3 week in vivo assay. These data show that activated FLT3 cooperates with MLL-AF9 to accelerate onset of an AML from whole bone marrow as well as a committed hematopoietic progenitor, and provide a new genetically defined model system that should prove useful for rapid assessment of potential therapeutics in vivo.
Project description:Rearrangement of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL; also known as lysine methyltransferase 2A) gene is a recurrent genomic aberration in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). MLLT3, super elongation complex subunit (AF9) is one of the most common MLL fusion partners in AML. The present study aimed to explore the aberrant expression of genes associated with the MLL?AF9 translocation and identified potential new targets for the therapy of AML with MLL?AF9 translocation. The transcriptomic and epigenetic datasets were downloaded from National Center of Biotechnology Information Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database. Differentially expressed genes were obtained from two independent datasets (GSE68643 and GSE73457). Gene Ontology biological process and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway enrichment analysis was performed using the Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery. MLL?AF9?associated chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP?Seq) data was analyzed and identified binding sites for MLL?AF9 and wild type MLL (MLL WT). The ChIP?Seq of histone modification data was downloaded from the GEO database, including histone 3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3), histone 3 lysine 79 dimethylation (H3K79me2) and histone 3 lysine 27 acetylation (H3K27ac), was used for comparing histone modification marks between the MLL?AF9 leukemia cells and normal hematopoietic cells at MLL?AF9 and MLL WT binding sites. The differentially expressed genes with the same trend in H3K79me2, H3K27ac and H3K4me3 alteration were identified as potential MLL?AF9 direct target genes. Upon validation using RNA?Seq data from the Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments AML project, eight potential direct target genes of MLL?AF9 were identified and further confirmed in MLL?AF9 mouse model using reverse transcription?quantitative polymerase chain reaction. These genes may have a critical role in AML with MLL?AF9 translocation.
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 gene MLL (encoding the protein mixed-lineage leukemia) is the target of chromosomal translocations that cause leukemias with poor prognosis. All leukemogenic MLL fusion proteins retain the CXXC domain, which binds to nonmethylated CpG DNA sites. We present the solution structure of the MLL CXXC domain in complex with DNA, showing how the CXXC domain distinguishes nonmethylated from methylated CpG DNA. On the basis of the structure, we generated point mutations that disrupt DNA binding. Introduction of these mutations into the MLL-AF9 fusion protein resulted in increased DNA methylation of specific CpG nucleotides in Hoxa9, increased H3K9 methylation, decreased expression of Hoxa9-locus transcripts, loss of immortalization potential, and inability to induce leukemia in mice. These results establish that DNA binding by the CXXC domain and protection against DNA methylation is essential for MLL fusion leukemia. They also provide support for viewing this interaction as a potential target for therapeutic intervention.