Sensitivity of MLL-rearranged AML cells to all-trans retinoic acid is associated with the level of H3K4me2 in the RAR? promoter region.
ABSTRACT: 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: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: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:Rearrangements of the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene occur predominately in pediatric leukemia cases and are generally predictors of a poor prognosis. These chromosomal rearrangements result in fusion of the protein MLL to one of more than 60 protein partners. MLL fusions are potent inducers of leukemia through activation of oncogene expression; therefore, targeting this transcriptional activation function may arrest MLL-rearranged (MLL-R) leukemia. Leukemic cell lines harboring the most common fusion protein, MLL-AF4, require the direct interaction of AF4 with the transcription factor AF9 to survive and self-renew; disrupting this interaction with a cell-penetrating AF4-derived peptide results in cell death, suggesting that the AF4-AF9 interaction could be a viable target for a novel MLL-R leukemia therapy. Here we describe the use of AlphaScreen technology to develop a high-throughput screening (HTS) assay to detect nonpeptidic inhibitors of AF4-AF9 binding. The assay is economical, requiring only low nanomolar concentrations of biotinylated AF4-derived peptide and FLAG-tagged AF9 in low-volume 384-well plates. A Z'-factor of 0.71 and a signal-to-background ratio of 21.3 showed the assay to be robust, and sensitivity to inhibition was demonstrated with competing AF4-derived peptides. Two pilot screens comprising 5,680 compounds served as validation for HTS at Nemours and the Broad Institute. Assay artifacts were excluded using a counterscreen comprising a biotinylated FLAG peptide. This is the first reported HTS-compatible assay to identify compounds that inhibit a key binding interaction of an MLL fusion partner, and the results presented here demonstrate suitability for screening large chemical libraries in high-density, low-volume plate formats.
Project description:A number of acute leukemias arise from fusion of the mixed lineage leukemia 1 protein (MLL) N terminus to a variety of fusion partners that have been reported to reside in one or more poorly defined complexes linked to transcription elongation through interactions with the histone H3-K79 methyltransferase DOT1 and positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb). Here we first identify natural complexes (purified through fusion partners AF9, AF4, and ELL) with overlapping components, different elongation activities, and different cofactor associations that suggest dynamic interactions. Then, through reconstitution of defined, functionally active minimal complexes, we identify stable subcomplexes that, through newly defined protein-protein interactions, form distinct higher order complexes. These definitive analyses show, for example, that (i) through direct interactions with AF9 and cyclinT1, family members AF4 and AFF4 independently mediate association of P-TEFb with AF9, (ii) P-TEFb, through direct interactions, provides the link for association of ELL and ELL-associated factors 1 and 2 (EAF1 and EAF2) with AF4, and (iii) in the absence of other factors, DOT1 forms a stable complex with AF9 and does not interact with AF9•AF4•P-TEFb complexes. Finally, we show the importance of defined higher order complex formation in MLL-AF9-mediated transcriptional up-regulation and cell immortalization potential in vivo. Thus, our study provides direct mechanistic insight into the role of fusion partners in MLL fusion-mediated leukemogenesis.
Project description:All-trans retinoic acid (atRA) has a dramatic impact on the survival of patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia, but its therapeutic value in other types of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has so far remained unclear. Given that AML is a stem cell-driven disease, recent studies have addressed the effects of atRA on leukemic stem cells (LSCs). atRA promoted stemness of MLL-AF9-driven AML in an Evi1-dependent manner but had the opposite effect in Flt3-ITD/Nup98-Hoxd13-driven AML. Overexpression of the stem cell-associated transcription factor EVI1 predicts a poor prognosis in AML, and is observed in different genetic subtypes, including cytogenetically normal AML. Here, we therefore investigated the effects of Evi1 in a mouse model for cytogenetically normal AML, which rests on the combined activity of Flt3-ITD and Npm1c mutations. Experimental expression of Evi1 on this background strongly promoted disease aggressiveness. atRA inhibited leukemia cell viability and stem cell-related properties, and these effects were counteracted by overexpression of Evi1. These data further underscore the complexity of the responsiveness of AML LSCs to atRA and point out the need for additional investigations which may lay a foundation for a precision medicine-based use of retinoids in AML.
Project description: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: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:Zinc finger protein 521 (ZNF521) is a multiple zinc finger transcription factor and a strong candidate as regulator of hematopoietic stem cell homeostasis. Recently, independent gene expression profile studies have evidenced a positive correlation between ZNF521 mRNA overexpression and MLL-rearranged acute myeloid leukemia (AML), leaving open the question on the role of ZNF521 in this subtype of leukemia. In this study, we sought to analyze the effect of ZNF521 depletion on MLL-rearranged AML cell lines and MLL-AF9 xenograft primary cells. Knockdown of ZNF521 with short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) led to decreased leukemia proliferation, reduced colony formation and caused cell cycle arrest in MLL-rearranged AML cell lines. Importantly, we showed that loss of ZNF521 substantially caused differentiation of both MLL-rearranged cell lines and primary cells. Moreover, gene profile analysis in ZNF521-silenced THP-1 cells revealed a loss of MLL-AF9-directed leukemic signature and an increase of the differentiation program. Finally, we determined that both MLL-AF9 and MLL-ENL fusion proteins directly interacted with ZNF521 promoter activating its transcription. In conclusion, our findings identify ZNF521 as a critical effector of MLL fusion proteins in blocking myeloid differentiation and highlight ZNF521 as a potential therapeutic target for this subtype of leukemia.
Project description:Patients with a t(9;11) translocation (MLL-AF9) develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and while in mice the expression of this fusion oncogene also results in the development of myeloid leukemia, it is with long latency. To identify mutations that cooperate with Mll-AF9, we infected neonatal wild-type (WT) or Mll-AF9 mice with a murine leukemia virus (MuLV). MuLV-infected Mll-AF9 mice succumbed to disease significantly faster than controls presenting predominantly with myeloid leukemia while infected WT animals developed predominantly lymphoid leukemia. We identified 88 candidate cancer genes near common sites of proviral insertion. Analysis of transcript levels revealed significantly elevated expression of Mn1, and a trend toward increased expression of Bcl11a and Fosb in Mll-AF9 murine leukemia samples with proviral insertions proximal to these genes. Accordingly, FOSB and BCL11A were also overexpressed in human AML harboring MLL gene translocations. FOSB was revealed to be essential for growth in mouse and human myeloid leukemia cells using shRNA lentiviral vectors in vitro. Importantly, MN1 cooperated with Mll-AF9 in leukemogenesis in an in vivo BM viral transduction and transplantation assay. Together, our data identified genes that define transcription factor networks and important genetic pathways acting during progression of leukemia induced by MLL fusion oncogenes.
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.