Leukemic transformation by the MLL-AF6 fusion oncogene requires the H3K79 methyltransferase Dot1l.
ABSTRACT: The t(6;11)(q27;q23) is a recurrent chromosomal rearrangement that encodes the MLLAF6 fusion oncoprotein and is observed in patients with diverse hematologic malignancies. The presence of the t(6;11)(q27;q23) has been linked to poor overall survival in patients with AML. In this study, we demonstrate that MLL-AF6 requires continued activity of the histone-methyltransferase DOT1L to maintain expression of the MLL-AF6-driven oncogenic gene-expression program. Using gene-expression analysis and genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation studies followed by next generation sequencing, we found that MLL-fusion target genes display markedly high levels of histone 3 at lysine 79 (H3K79) dimethylation in murine MLL-AF6 leukemias as well as in ML2, a human myelomonocytic leukemia cell line bearing the t(6;11)(q27;q23) translocation. Targeted disruption of Dot1l using a conditional knockout mouse model inhibited leukemogenesis mediated by the MLL-AF6 fusion oncogene. Moreover, both murine MLL-AF6-transformed cells as well as the human MLL-AF6-positive ML2 leukemia cell line displayed specific sensitivity to EPZ0004777, a recently described, selective, small-molecule inhibitor of Dot1l. Dot1l inhibition resulted in significantly decreased proliferation, decreased expression of MLL-AF6 target genes, and cell cycle arrest of MLL-AF6-transformed cells. These results indicate that patients bearing the t(6;11)(q27;q23) translocation may benefit from therapeutic agents targeting aberrant H3K79 methylation.
Project description:In pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML), intensive chemotherapy and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are the cornerstones of treatment in high-risk cases, with severe late effects and a still high risk of disease recurrence as the main drawbacks. The identification of targeted, more effective, safer drugs is thus desirable. We performed a high-throughput drug-screening assay of 1280 compounds and identified thioridazine (TDZ), a drug that was highly selective for the t(6;11)(q27;q23) MLL-AF6 (6;11)AML rearrangement, which mediates a dramatically poor (below 20%) survival rate. TDZ induced cell death and irreversible progress toward the loss of leukemia cell clonogenic capacity in vitro. Thus, we explored its mechanism of action and found a profound cytoskeletal remodeling of blast cells that led to Ca2+ influx, triggering apoptosis through mitochondrial depolarization, confirming that this latter phenomenon occurs selectively in t(6;11)AML, for which AF6 does not work as a cytoskeletal regulator, because it is sequestered into the nucleus by the fusion gene. We confirmed TDZ-mediated t(6;11)AML toxicity in vivo and enhanced the drug's safety by developing novel TDZ analogues that exerted the same effect on leukemia reduction, but with lowered neuroleptic effects in vivo. Overall, these results refine the MLL-AF6 AML leukemogenic mechanism and suggest that the benefits of targeting it be corroborated in further clinical trials.
Project description:Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) with MLL gene rearrangements demonstrate unique gene expression profiles driven by MLL-fusion proteins. Here, we identify the circadian clock transcription factor SHARP1 as a novel oncogenic target in MLL-AF6 AML, which has the worst prognosis among all subtypes of MLL-rearranged AMLs. SHARP1 is expressed solely in MLL-AF6 AML, and its expression is regulated directly by MLL-AF6/DOT1L. Suppression of SHARP1 induces robust apoptosis of human MLL-AF6 AML cells. Genetic deletion in mice delays the development of leukemia and attenuated leukemia-initiating potential, while sparing normal hematopoiesis. Mechanistically, SHARP1 binds to transcriptionally active chromatin across the genome and activates genes critical for cell survival as well as key oncogenic targets of MLL-AF6. Our findings demonstrate the unique oncogenic role for SHARP1 in MLL-AF6 AML.
Project description:MLL is a common target for chromosomal translocations associated with acute leukemia resulting in its fusion with a large variety of nuclear or cytoplasmic proteins that may activate its oncogenic properties by distinct but poorly understood mechanisms. The MLL-AF6 fusion gene represents the most common leukemogenic fusion of mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) to a cytoplasmic partner protein. Here, we identified a highly conserved Ras association (RA1) domain at the amino-terminus of AF6 as the minimal region sufficient for MLL-AF6 mediated myeloid progenitor immortalization in vitro and short latency leukemogenesis in vivo. Moreover, the ability of RA1 to activate MLL oncogenesis is conserved with its Drosophila ortholog, Canoe. Although the AF6 RA1 domain has previously been defined as an interaction surface for guanosine triphosphate-bound Ras, single amino acid substitutions known to abolish the AF6-Ras interaction did not abrogate MLL-AF6-mediated oncogenesis. Furthermore, fusion of MLL to heterologous RA domains of c-Raf1 or RalGDS, or direct fusion of MLL to constitutively active K-RAS, H-RAS, or RAP1 was not sufficient for oncogenic activation of MLL. Rather, the AF6 RA1 domain efficiently mediated self-association, suggesting that constitutive MLL self-association is a more common pathogenic mechanism for MLL oncogenesis than indicated by previous studies of rare MLL fusion partners.
Project description:We report the genome wide distribution of H3K79 dimethylation in the human MLL-AF6 rearranged cell line ML2 as well as the human MOLM13 and HL60 cell lines Examination of H3K79 dimethylation in the MLL-AF6 fusion positive human leukemia cell line ML2 and control cell lines MOLM-13 and HL60. The MLL-AF6 positive ML2 cell line (obtained from DSMZ) and the cell lines HL60 and MOLM 13 were grown under standard conditions and 1 million cells were fixed/crosslinked and used for ChIP-seq with H3K79 dimethylation specific antibody Ab3594 (Abcam)
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: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: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:Elucidation of activation mechanisms governing protein fusions is essential for therapeutic development. MLL undergoes rearrangement with numerous partners, including a recurrent translocation fusing the epigenetic regulator to a cytoplasmic RAS effector, AF6/afadin. We show here that AF6 employs a non-canonical, evolutionarily conserved α-helix to bind RAS, unique to AF6 and the classical RASSF effectors. Further, all patients with MLL-AF6 translocations express fusion proteins missing only this helix from AF6, resulting in exposure of hydrophobic residues that induce dimerization. We provide evidence that oligomerization is the dominant mechanism driving oncogenesis from rare MLL translocation partners and employ our mechanistic understanding of MLL-AF6 to examine how dimers induce leukemia. Proteomic data resolve association of dimerized MLL with gene expression modulators, and inhibiting dimerization disrupts formation of these complexes while completely abrogating leukemogenesis in mice. Oncogenic gene translocations are thus selected under pressure from protein structure/function, underscoring the complex nature of chromosomal rearrangements.
Project description:The MLL gene on chromosome 11 fuses to the AF6 gene on chromosome 6 in a balanced chromosomal translocation that is characetristic of certain adult and pediatric human leukemias. We established a murine leukemia model of MLL-AF6 using the retroviral MLL-AF6 contruct in a bone marrow transplantation system. The ML2 human MLL-AF6 positive leukemia cell line was used for gene expression profiling to assess the transctiptional profile in MLL-AF6 leukemias. Overall design: RNA was extracted from the ML2 cell line cultured under standard conditionswith TRIZOL (Invitrogen), purified using RNAeasy(Qiagen) and hybridized onto Affymetrix arrays.
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.