DOT1L, the H3K79 methyltransferase, is required for MLL-AF9-mediated leukemogenesis.
ABSTRACT: 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 t(10;11)(p12;q23) translocation and the t(10;11)(p12;q14) translocation, which encode the MLL (mixed lineage leukemia)-AF10 and CALM (clathrin assembly lymphoid myeloid leukemia)-AF10 fusion oncoproteins, respectively, are two recurrent chromosomal rearrangements observed in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Here, we demonstrate that MLL-AF10 and CALM-AF10-mediated transformation is dependent on the H3K79 methyltransferase Dot1l using genetic and pharmacological approaches in mouse models. Targeted disruption of Dot1l using a conditional knockout mouse model abolished in vitro transformation of murine bone marrow cells and in vivo initiation and maintenance of MLL-AF10 or CALM-AF10 leukemia. The treatment of MLL-AF10 and CALM-AF10 transformed cells with EPZ004777, a specific small-molecule inhibitor of Dot1l, suppressed expression of leukemogenic genes such as Hoxa cluster genes and Meis1, and selectively impaired proliferation of MLL-AF10 and CALM-AF10 transformed cells. Pretreatment with EPZ004777 profoundly decreased the in vivo spleen-colony-forming ability of MLL-AF10 or CALM-AF10 transformed bone marrow cells. These results show that patients with leukemia-bearing chromosomal translocations that involve the AF10 gene may benefit from small-molecule therapeutics that inhibit H3K79 methylation.
Project description:The histone 3 lysine 79 (H3K79) methyltransferase Dot1l has been implicated in the development of leukemias bearing translocations of the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene. We identified the MLL-fusion targets in an MLL-AF9 leukemia model, and conducted epigenetic profiling for H3K79me2, H3K4me3, H3K27me3, and H3K36me3 in hematopoietic progenitor and leukemia stem cells (LSCs). We found abnormal profiles only for H3K79me2 on MLL-AF9 fusion target loci in LSCs. Inactivation of Dot1l led to downregulation of direct MLL-AF9 targets and an MLL translocation-associated gene expression signature, whereas global gene expression remained largely unaffected. Suppression of MLL translocation-associated gene expression corresponded with dependence of MLL-AF9 leukemia on Dot1l in vivo. These data point to DOT1L as a potential therapeutic target in MLL-rearranged leukemia.
Project description:Mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) fusions are potent oncogenes that initiate aggressive forms of acute leukemia. As aberrant transcriptional regulators, MLL-fusion proteins alter gene expression in hematopoietic cells through interactions with the histone H3 lysine 79 (H3K79) methyltransferase DOT1L. Notably, interference with MLL-fusion cofactors like DOT1L is an emerging therapeutic strategy in this disease. Here, we identify the histone H2B E3 ubiquitin ligase ring finger protein 20 (RNF20) as an additional chromatin regulator that is necessary for MLL-fusion-mediated leukemogenesis. Suppressing the expression of Rnf20 in diverse models of MLL-rearranged leukemia leads to inhibition of cell proliferation, under tissue culture conditions as well as in vivo. Rnf20 knockdown leads to reduced expression of MLL-fusion target genes, effects resembling Dot1l inhibition. Using ChIP-seq, we found that H2B ubiquitination is enriched in the body of MLL-fusion target genes, correlating with sites of H3K79 methylation and transcription elongation. Furthermore, Rnf20 is required to maintain local levels of H3K79 methylation by Dot1l at Hoxa9 and Meis1. These findings support a model whereby cotranscriptional recruitment of Rnf20 at MLL-fusion target genes leads to amplification of Dot1l-mediated H3K79 methylation, thereby rendering leukemia cells dependent on Rnf20 to maintain their oncogenic transcriptional program.
Project description:MLL-fusion proteins, AF9 and ENL, play an essential role in the recruitment of DOT1L and the H3K79 hypermethylation of MLL target genes, which is pivotal for leukemogenesis. Blocking these interactions may represent a novel therapeutic approach for MLL-rearranged leukemia. Based on the 7 mer DOT1L peptide, a class of peptidomimetics was designed. Compound 21 with modified middle residues, achieved significantly improved binding affinities to AF9 and ENL, with KD values of 15 nM and 57 nM, respectively. Importantly, 21 recognizes and binds to the cellular AF9 protein and effectively inhibits the AF9-DOT1L interactions in cells. Modifications of the N- and C-termini of 21 resulted in 28 with 2-fold improved binding affinity to AF9 and much decreased peptidic characteristics. Our study provides a proof-of-concept for development of nonpeptidic compounds to inhibit DOT1L activity by targeting its recruitment and the interactions between DOT1L and MLL-oncofusion proteins AF9 and ENL.
Project description:Homeotic (HOX) genes are dysregulated in multiple malignancies, including several AML subtypes. We demonstrate that H3K79 dimethylation (H3K79me2) is converted to monomethylation (H3K79me1) at HOX loci as hematopoietic cells mature, thus coinciding with a decrease in HOX gene expression. We show that H3K79 methyltransferase activity as well as H3K79me1-to-H3K79me2 conversion is regulated by the DOT1L cofactor AF10. AF10 inactivation reverses leukemia-associated epigenetic profiles, precludes abnormal HOXA gene expression, and impairs the transforming ability of MLL-AF9, MLL-AF6, and NUP98-NSD1 fusions-mechanistically distinct HOX-activating oncogenes. Furthermore, NUP98-NSD1-transformed cells are sensitive to small-molecule inhibition of DOT1L. Our findings demonstrate that pharmacological inhibition of the DOT1L/AF10 complex may provide therapeutic benefits in an array of malignancies with abnormal HOXA gene expression.
Project description:Disruptor of telomeric silencing 1-like (Dot1l) is a histone 3 lysine 79 methyltransferase. Studies of constitutive Dot1l knockout mice show that Dot1l is essential for embryonic development and prenatal hematopoiesis. DOT1L also interacts with translocation partners of Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene, which is commonly translocated in human leukemia. However, the requirement of Dot1l in postnatal hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis of MLL translocation proteins has not been conclusively shown. With a conditional Dot1l knockout mouse model, we examined the consequences of Dot1l loss in postnatal hematopoiesis and MLL translocation leukemia. Deletion of Dot1l led to pancytopenia and failure of hematopoietic homeostasis, and Dot1l-deficient cells minimally reconstituted recipient bone marrow in competitive transplantation experiments. In addition, MLL-AF9 cells required Dot1l for oncogenic transformation, whereas cells with other leukemic oncogenes, such as Hoxa9/Meis1 and E2A-HLF, did not. These findings illustrate a crucial role of Dot1l in normal hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis of specific oncogenes.
Project description:Overexpression of HOXA/MEIS1/PBX3 homeobox genes is the hallmark of mixed lineage leukemia (MLL)-rearranged acute myeloid leukemia (AML). HOXA9 and MEIS1 are considered to be the most critical targets of MLL fusions and their coexpression rapidly induces AML. MEIS1 and PBX3 are not individually able to transform cells and were therefore hypothesized to function as cofactors of HOXA9. However, in this study, we demonstrate that coexpression of PBX3 and MEIS1 (PBX3/MEIS1), without ectopic expression of a HOX gene, is sufficient for transformation of normal mouse hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells in vitro. Moreover, PBX3/MEIS1 overexpression also caused AML in vivo, with a leukemic latency similar to that caused by forced expression of MLL-AF9, the most common form of MLL fusions. Furthermore, gene expression profiling of hematopoietic cells demonstrated that PBX3/MEIS1 overexpression, but not HOXA9/MEIS1, HOXA9/PBX3, or HOXA9 overexpression, recapitulated the MLL-fusion-mediated core transcriptome, particularly upregulation of the endogenous Hoxa genes. Disruption of the binding between MEIS1 and PBX3 diminished PBX3/MEIS1-mediated cell transformation and HOX gene upregulation. Collectively, our studies strongly implicate the PBX3/MEIS1 interaction as a driver of cell transformation and leukemogenesis, and suggest that this axis may play a critical role in the regulation of the core transcriptional programs activated in MLL-rearranged and HOX-overexpressing AML. Therefore, targeting the MEIS1/PBX3 interaction may represent a promising therapeutic strategy to treat these AML subtypes.
Project description:The Super Elongation Complex (SEC), containing transcription elongation activators/coactivators P-TEFb, ELL2, AFF4/1, ENL, and AF9, is recruited by HIV-1 Tat and mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) proteins to activate the expression of HIV-1 and MLL-target genes, respectively. In the absence of Tat and MLL, however, it is unclear how SEC is targeted to RNA polymerase (Pol) II to stimulate elongation in general. Furthermore, although ENL and AF9 can bind the H3K79 methyltransferase Dot1L, it is unclear whether these bindings are required for SEC-mediated transcription. Here, we show that the homologous ENL and AF9 exist in separate SECs with similar but nonidentical functions. ENL/AF9 contacts the scaffolding protein AFF4 that uses separate domains to recruit different subunits into SEC. ENL/AF9 also exists outside SEC when bound to Dot1L, which is found to inhibit SEC function. The YEATS domain of ENL/AF9 targets SEC to Pol II on chromatin through contacting the human Polymerase-Associated Factor complex (PAFc) complex. This finding explains the YEATS domain's dispensability for leukemogenesis when ENL/AF9 is translocated to MLL, whose interactions with PAFc and DNA likely substitute for the PAFc/chromatin-targeting function of the YEATS domain.
Project description:The MLL gene is a common target of chromosomal translocations found in human leukemia. MLL-fusion leukemia has a consistently poor outcome. One of the most common translocation partners is AF9 (MLLT3). MLL-AF9 recruits DOT1L, a histone 3 lysine 79 methyltransferase (H3K79me1/me2/me3), leading to aberrant gene transcription. We show that DOT1L has three AF9 binding sites and present the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) solution structure of a DOT1L-AF9 complex. We generate structure-guided point mutations and find that they have graded effects on recruitment of DOT1L to MLL-AF9. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) analyses of H3K79me2 and H3K79me3 show that graded reduction of the DOT1L interaction with MLL-AF9 results in differential loss of H3K79me2 and me3 at MLL-AF9 target genes. Furthermore, the degree of DOT1L recruitment is linked to the level of MLL-AF9 hematopoietic transformation.
Project description:DOT1L is a unique histone methyltransferase that targets the histone H3 lysine 79 (H3K79) residue for mono-, di- and tri- methylation. Histone H3K79 mono- and di-methylation results in active gene transcription, while H3K79 tri-methylation is associated with gene repression. DOT1L has a critical role in regulating gene transcription, development, cell cycle progression, somatic reprogramming and DNA damage repair. DOT1L interacts with Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) fusion proteins, leading to enhanced H3K79 methylation, maintenance of open chromatin, overexpression of downstream oncogenes and leukemogenesis. Importantly, small molecule DOT1L inhibitors have been recently developed, and one of the DOT1L inhibitors is already under investigation in a Phase I clinical trial in patients with MLL fusion gene-driven leukemia.