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Differential requirement for wild-type Flt3 in leukemia initiation among mouse models of human leukemia.
ABSTRACT: FLT3 is one of the most frequently mutated genes in acute leukemias. However, the role in leukemogenesis of wild-type (wt) FLT3, which is highly expressed in many hematologic malignancies, is unclear. We show here that in mouse models established by retroviral transduction of leukemic fusion proteins, deletion of Flt3 strongly inhibits MLL-ENL and to lesser extent p210(BCR-ABL)-induced leukemogenesis, but has no effect in MLL-AF9 or AML1-ETO9a models. Flt3 acts at the level of leukemic stem cells (LSCs), as a fraction of LSCs in MLL-ENL, but not in MLL-AF9-induced leukemia, expressed Flt3 in vivo, and Flt3 expression on LSCs was associated with leukemia development in this model. Furthermore, efficiency of MLL-ENL, but not of MLL-AF9-induced leukemia induction was significantly enhanced after transduction of Flt3(+) compared to Flt3(-) wt myeloid progenitors. However, Flt3 is not required for immortalization of bone marrow cells in vitro by MLL-ENL and does not affect colony formation by MLL-ENL LSCs in vitro, suggesting that in vitro models do not reflect the in vivo biology of MLL-ENL leukemia with respect to Flt3 requirement. We conclude that wt Flt3 plays a role in leukemia initiation in vivo, which is, however, not universal.
Project description:Eradication of leukemia stem cells (LSCs) is the ultimate goal of treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We recently showed that the combined loss of Runx1/Cbfb inhibited the development of MLL-AF9-induced AML. However, c-Kit+/Gr-1- cells remained viable in Runx1/Cbfb-deleted cells, indicating that suppressing RUNX activity may not eradicate the most immature LSCs. In this study, we found upregulation of several hemostasis-related genes, including the thrombin-activatable receptor PAR-1 (protease-activated receptor-1), in Runx1/Cbfb-deleted MLL-AF9 cells. Similar to the effect of Runx1/Cbfb deletion, PAR-1 overexpression induced CDKN1A/p21 expression and attenuated proliferation in MLL-AF9 cells. To our surprise, PAR-1 deficiency also prevented leukemia development induced by a small number of MLL-AF9 leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in vivo. PAR-1 deficiency also reduced leukemogenicity of AML1-ETO-induced leukemia. Re-expression of PAR-1 in PAR-1-deficient cells combined with a limiting-dilution transplantation assay demonstrated the cell-dose-dependent role of PAR-1 in MLL-AF9 leukemia: PAR-1 inhibited rapid leukemic proliferation when there were a large number of LSCs, while a small number of LSCs required PAR-1 for their efficient growth. Mechanistically, PAR-1 increased the adherence properties of MLL-AF9 cells and promoted their engraftment to bone marrow. Taken together, these data revealed a multifaceted role for PAR-1 in leukemogenesis, and highlight this receptor as a potential target to eradicate primitive LSCs in AML.
Project description:Translocation of the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene with AF4, AF9, or ENL results in acute leukemia with both lymphoid and myeloid involvement. We characterized leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) in primary infant MLL-rearranged leukemia using a xenotransplantation model. In MLL-AF4 patients, CD34(+)CD38(+)CD19(+) and CD34(-)CD19(+) cells initiated leukemia, and in MLL-AF9 patients, CD34(-)CD19(+) cells were LICs. In MLL-ENL patients, either CD34(+) or CD34(-) cells were LICs, depending on the pattern of CD34 expression. In contrast, in patients with these MLL translocations, CD34(+)CD38(-)CD19(-)CD33(-) cells were enriched for normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) with in vivo long-term multilineage hematopoietic repopulation capacity. Although LICs developed leukemic cells with clonal immunoglobulin heavy-chain (IGH) rearrangement in vivo, CD34(+)CD38(-)CD19(-)CD33(-) cells repopulated recipient bone marrow and spleen with B cells, showing broad polyclonal IGH rearrangement and recipient thymus with CD4(+) single positive (SP), CD8(+) SP, and CD4(+)CD8(+) double-positive (DP) T cells. Global gene expression profiling revealed that CD9, CD32, and CD24 were over-represented in MLL-AF4, MLL-AF9, and MLL-ENL LICs compared with normal HSCs. In patient samples, these molecules were expressed in CD34(+)CD38(+) and CD34(-) LICs but not in CD34(+)CD38(-)CD19(-)CD33(-) HSCs. Identification of LICs and LIC-specific molecules in primary human MLL-rearranged acute lymphoblastic leukemia may lead to improved therapeutic strategies for MLL-rearranged leukemia.
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:The eleven-nineteen leukemia (ENL) protein family, composed of ENL and AF9, is a common component of 3 transcriptional modulators: AF4-ENL-P-TEFb complex (AEP), DOT1L-AF10-ENL complex (referred to as the DOT1L complex) and polycomb-repressive complex 1 (PRC1). Each complex associates with chromatin via distinct mechanisms, conferring different transcriptional properties including activation, maintenance, and repression. The mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene often fuses with ENL and AF10 family genes in leukemia. However, the functional interrelationship among those 3 complexes in leukemic transformation remains largely elusive. Here, we have shown that MLL-ENL and MLL-AF10 constitutively activate transcription by aberrantly inducing both AEP-dependent transcriptional activation and DOT1L-dependent transcriptional maintenance, mostly in the absence of PRC1, to fully transform hematopoietic progenitors. These results reveal a cooperative transcriptional activation mechanism of AEP and DOT1L and suggest a molecular rationale for the simultaneous inhibition of the MLL fusion-AF4 complex and DOT1L for more effective treatment of MLL-rearranged leukemia.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Overexpression of Wilms' tumor-1 (WT1) transcription factor facilitates proliferation in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, whether WT1 is enriched in the leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) and leukemia stem cells (LSCs) and facilitates the self-renewal of LSCs remains poorly understood. METHODS:MLL-AF9-induced murine leukemia model was used to evaluate the effect of knockdown of wt1 on the self-renewal ability of LSC. RNA sequencing was performed on WT1-overexpressing cells to select WT1 targets. Apoptosis and colony formation assays were used to assess the anti-leukemic potential of a deubiquitinase inhibitor WP1130. Furthermore, NOD/SCID-IL2R? (NSG) AML xenotransplantation and MLL-AF9-induced murine leukemia models were used to evaluate the anti-leukemogenic potential of WP1130 in vivo. RESULTS:We found that wt1 is highly expressed in LICs and LSCs and facilitates the maintenance of leukemia in a murine MLL-AF9-induced model of AML. WT1 enhanced the self-renewal of LSC by increasing the expression of BCL2L2, a member of B cell lymphoma 2 (BCL2) family, by direct binding to its promoter region. Loss of WT1 impaired self-renewal ability in LSC and delayed the progression of leukemia. WP1130 was found to modify the WT1-BCL2L2 axis, and WP1130-induced anti-leukemic activity was mediated by ubiquitin proteasome-mediated destruction of WT1 protein. WP1130 induced apoptosis and decreased colony formation abilities of leukemia cells and prolonged the overall survival in the THP1-based xenograft NSG mouse model. WP1130 also decreased the frequency of LSC and prolonged the overall survival in MLL-AF9-induced murine leukemia model. Mechanistically, WP1130 induced the degradation of WT1 by positively affecting the ubiquitination of WT1 protein. CONCLUSIONS:Our results indicate that WT1 is required for the development of AML. WP1130 exhibits anti-leukemic activity by inhibiting the WT1-BCL2L2 axis, which may represent a new acute myeloid leukemia therapy target.
Project description:Leukemias exhibit a dysregulated developmental program mediated through both genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Although IKZF2 is expressed in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), we found that it is dispensable for mouse and human HSC function. In contrast to its role as a tumor suppressor in hypodiploid B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia, we found that IKZF2 is required for myeloid leukemia. IKZF2 is highly expressed in leukemic stem cells (LSCs), and its deficiency results in defective LSC function. IKZF2 depletion in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells reduced colony formation, increased differentiation and apoptosis, and delayed leukemogenesis. Gene expression, chromatin accessibility, and direct IKZF2 binding in MLL-AF9 LSCs demonstrate that IKZF2 regulates a HOXA9 self-renewal gene expression program and inhibits a C/EBP-driven differentiation program. Ectopic HOXA9 expression and CEBPE depletion rescued the effects of IKZF2 depletion. Thus, our study shows that IKZF2 regulates the AML LSC program and provides a rationale to therapeutically target IKZF2 in myeloid leukemia.
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: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:PTPN11 encodes the Shp2 non-receptor protein-tyrosine phosphatase implicated in several signaling pathways. Activating mutations in Shp2 are commonly associated with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia but are not as well defined in other neoplasms. Here we report that Shp2 mutations occur in human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at a rate of 6.6% (6/91) in the ECOG E1900 data set. We examined the role of mutated Shp2 in leukemias harboring MLL translocations, which co-occur in human AML. The hyperactive Shp2E76K mutant, commonly observed in leukemia patients, significantly accelerated MLL-AF9-mediated leukemogenesis in vivo. Shp2E76K increased leukemic stem cell frequency and affords MLL-AF9 leukemic cells IL3 cytokine hypersensitivity. As Shp2 is reported to regulate anti-apoptotic genes, we investigated Bcl2, Bcl-xL and Mcl1 expression in MLL-AF9 leukemic cells with and without Shp2E76K. Although the Bcl2 family of genes was upregulated in Shp2E76K cells, Mcl1 showed the highest upregulation in MLL-AF9 cells in response to Shp2E76K. Indeed, expression of Mcl1 in MLL-AF9 cells phenocopies expression of Shp2E76K, suggesting Shp2 mutations cooperate through activation of anti-apoptotic genes. Finally, we show Shp2E76K mutations reduce sensitivity of AML cells to small-molecule-mediated Mcl1 inhibition, suggesting reduced efficacy of drugs targeting MCL1 in patients with hyperactive Shp2.
Project description:Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) engage in complex bidirectional signals with the hematopoietic microenvironment (HM), and there is emerging evidence that leukemia stem cells (LSCs) may use similar interactions. Using a syngeneic retroviral model of MLL-AF9 induced acute myeloid leukemia (AML), we have identified 2 different stages of leukemia progression, propagated by "pre-LSCs" and established leukemia (LSCs) and compared the homing properties of these distinctive entities to that of normal HSCs. The homing and microlocalization of pre-LSCs was most similar to long-term HSCs and was dependent on cell-intrinsic Wnt signaling. In contrast, the homing of established LSCs was most similar to that of committed myeloid progenitors and distinct from HSCs. Although osteoblast-derived Dickkopf-1, a potent Wnt inhibitor known to impair HSC function, dramatically impaired normal HSC localization within the bone marrow, it did not affect pre-LSCs, LSC homing, or AML development. Mechanistically, cell-intrinsic Wnt activation was observed in human and murine AML samples, explaining the independence of MLL-AF9 LSCs from niche-derived Wnt signals. These data identify differential engagement of HM associated with leukemic progression and identify an LSC niche that is physically distinct and independent of the constraints of Wnt signaling that apply to normal HSCs.