Enhancer hijacking activates GFI1 family oncogenes in medulloblastoma.
ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma is a highly malignant paediatric brain tumour currently treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, posing a considerable burden of toxicity to the developing child. Genomics has illuminated the extensive intertumoral heterogeneity of medulloblastoma, identifying four distinct molecular subgroups. Group 3 and group 4 subgroup medulloblastomas account for most paediatric cases; yet, oncogenic drivers for these subtypes remain largely unidentified. Here we describe a series of prevalent, highly disparate genomic structural variants, restricted to groups 3 and 4, resulting in specific and mutually exclusive activation of the growth factor independent 1 family proto-oncogenes, GFI1 and GFI1B. Somatic structural variants juxtapose GFI1 or GFI1B coding sequences proximal to active enhancer elements, including super-enhancers, instigating oncogenic activity. Our results, supported by evidence from mouse models, identify GFI1 and GFI1B as prominent medulloblastoma oncogenes and implicate 'enhancer hijacking' as an efficient mechanism driving oncogene activation in a childhood cancer.
Project description:Gfi1 is a transcriptional repressor essential for haematopoiesis and inner ear development. It shares with its paralogue Gfi1b an amino-terminal SNAG repressor domain and six carboxy-terminal zinc-finger motifs, but differs from Gfi1b in sequences separating these domains. Here, we describe two knock-in mouse models, in which the N-terminal SNAG repressor domain was mutated or in which the Gfi1 coding region was replaced by Gfi1b. Mouse mutants without an intact SNAG domain show the full phenotype of Gfi1 null mice. However, Gfi1:Gfi1b knock-in mice show almost normal pre-T-cell and neutrophil development, but lack properly formed inner ear hair cells. Hence, our findings show that an intact SNAG domain is essential for all functions of Gfi1 and that Gfi1b can replace Gfi1 functionally in haematopoiesis but, surprisingly, not in inner ear hair cell development, demonstrating that Gfi1 and Gfi1b have equivalent and domain-dependent, cell type-specific functions.
Project description:The DNA-binding zinc finger transcription factors Gfi1 and Gfi1b were discovered more than 20 years ago and are recognized today as major regulators of both early hematopoiesis and hematopoietic stem cells. Both proteins function as transcriptional repressors by recruiting histone-modifying enzymes to promoters and enhancers of target genes. The establishment of Gfi1 and Gfi1b reporter mice made it possible to visualize their cell type-specific expression and to understand their function in hematopoietic lineages. We now know that Gfi1 is primarily important in myeloid and lymphoid differentiation, whereas Gfi1b is crucial for the generation of red blood cells and platelets. Several rare hematologic diseases are associated with acquired or inheritable mutations in the GFI1 and GFI1B genes. Certain patients with severe congenital neutropenia carry mutations in the GFI1 gene that lead to the disruption of the C-terminal zinc finger domains. Other mutations have been found in the GFI1B gene in families with inherited bleeding disorders. In addition, the Gfi1 locus is frequently found to be a proviral integration site in retrovirus-induced lymphomagenesis, and new, emerging data suggest a role of Gfi1 in human leukemia and lymphoma, underlining the role of both factors not only in normal hematopoiesis, but also in a wide spectrum of human blood diseases.
Project description:Growth factor independence genes (Gfi1 and Gfi1b) repress recombination activating genes (Rag) transcription in developing B lymphocytes. Because all blood lineages originate from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and different lineage progenitors have been shown to share transcription factor networks prior to cell fate commitment, we hypothesized that GFI family proteins may also play a role in repressing Rag transcription or a global lymphoid transcriptional program in other blood lineages. We tested the level of Rag transcription in various blood cells when Gfi1 and Gfi1b were deleted, and observed an upregulation of Rag expression in plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). Using microarray analysis, we observed that Gfi1 and Gfi1b do not regulate a lymphoid or pDC-specific transcriptional program. This study establishes a role for Gfi1 and Gfi1b in Rag regulation in a non-B lineage cell type.
Project description:Many human diseases arise through dysregulation of genes that control key cell fate pathways. Transcription factors (TFs) are major cell fate regulators frequently involved in cancer, particularly in leukemia. The GFI1B gene, coding a TF, was identified by sequence homology with the oncogene growth factor independence 1 (GFI1). Both GFI1 and GFI1B have six C-terminal C2H2 zinc fingers and an N-terminal SNAG (SNAIL/GFI1) transcriptional repression domain. Gfi1 is essential for neutrophil differentiation in mice. In humans, GFI1 mutations are associated with severe congenital neutropenia. Gfi1 is also required for B and T lymphopoiesis. However, knockout mice have demonstrated that Gfi1b is required for development of both erythroid and megakaryocytic lineages. Consistent with this, human mutations of GFI1B produce bleeding disorders with low platelet count and abnormal function. Loss of Gfi1b in adult mice increases the absolute numbers of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that are less quiescent than wild-type HSCs. In keeping with this key role in cell fate, GFI1B is emerging as a gene involved in cancer, which also includes solid tumors. In fact, abnormal activation of GFI1B and GFI1 has been related to human medulloblastoma and is also likely to be relevant in blood malignancies. Several pieces of evidence supporting this statement will be detailed in this mini review.
Project description:The most aggressive of four medulloblastoma (MB) subgroups are cMyc-driven group 3 (G3) tumors, some of which overexpress EZH2, the histone H3K27 mono-, di-, and trimethylase of polycomb-repressive complex 2. Ezh2 has a context-dependent role in different cancers as an oncogene or tumor suppressor and retards tumor progression in a mouse model of G3 MB. Engineered deletions of Ezh2 in G3 MBs by gene editing nucleases accelerated tumorigenesis, whereas Ezh2 re-expression reversed attendant histone modifications and slowed tumor progression. Candidate oncogenic drivers suppressed by Ezh2 included Gfi1, a proto-oncogene frequently activated in human G3 MBs. Gfi1 disruption antagonized the tumor-promoting effects of Ezh2 loss; conversely, Gfi1 overexpression collaborated with Myc to bypass effects of Trp53 inactivation in driving MB progression in primary cerebellar neuronal progenitors. Although negative regulation of Gfi1 by Ezh2 may restrain MB development, Gfi1 activation can bypass these effects.
Project description:One of the hallmarks of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a block in cellular differentiation. Recent studies have shown that small molecules targeting Lysine Specific Demethylase 1A (KDM1A) may force the malignant cells to terminally differentiate. KDM1A is a core component of the chromatin binding CoREST complex. Together with histone deacetylases CoREST regulates gene expression by histone 3 demethylation and deacetylation. The transcription factors GFI1 and GFI1B (for growth factor independence) are major interaction partners of KDM1A and recruit the CoREST complex to chromatin in myeloid cells. Recent studies show that the small molecules that target KDM1A disrupt the GFI1/1B-CoREST interaction and that this is key to inducing terminal differentiation of leukemia cells.
Project description:Drugs that modify the epigenome are powerful tools for treating cancer, but these drugs often have pleiotropic effects, and identifying patients who will benefit from them remains a major clinical challenge. Here we show that medulloblastomas driven by the transcription factor Gfi1 are exquisitely dependent on the enzyme lysine demethylase 1 (Kdm1a/Lsd1). We demonstrate that Lsd1 physically associates with Gfi1, and that these proteins cooperate to inhibit genes involved in neuronal commitment and differentiation. We also show that Lsd1 is essential for Gfi1-mediated transformation: Gfi1 proteins that cannot recruit Lsd1 are unable to drive tumorigenesis, and genetic ablation of Lsd1 markedly impairs tumor growth in vivo. Finally, pharmacological inhibitors of Lsd1 potently inhibit growth of Gfi1-driven tumors. These studies provide important insight into the mechanisms by which Gfi1 contributes to tumorigenesis, and identify Lsd1 inhibitors as promising therapeutic agents for Gfi1-driven medulloblastoma.
Project description:The genetic regulatory network controlling early fate choices during human blood cell development are not well understood. We used human pluripotent stem cell reporter lines to track the development of endothelial and haematopoietic populations in an in vitro model of human yolk-sac development. We identified SOX17-CD34+CD43- endothelial cells at day 2 of blast colony development, as a haemangioblast-like branch point from which SOX17-CD34+CD43+ blood cells and SOX17+CD34+CD43- endothelium subsequently arose. Most human blood cell development was dependent on RUNX1. Deletion of RUNX1 only permitted a single wave of yolk sac-like primitive erythropoiesis, but no yolk sac myelopoiesis or aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM)-like haematopoiesis. Blocking GFI1 and/or GFI1B activity with a small molecule inhibitor abrogated all blood cell development, even in cell lines with an intact RUNX1 gene. Together, our data define the hierarchical requirements for RUNX1, GFI1 and/or GFI1B during early human haematopoiesis arising from a yolk sac-like SOX17-negative haemogenic endothelial intermediate.
Project description:Precise regulation of Rag (recombination-activating gene) expression is crucial to prevent genomic instability caused by the generation of Rag-mediated DNA breaks. Although mechanisms of Rag activation have been well characterized, the mechanism by which Rag expression is down-regulated in early B cell development has not been fully elucidated. Using a complementary DNA library screen, we identified the transcriptional repressor Gfi1b as negative regulator of the Rag locus. Expression of Gfi1b causes repression of Rag1 and Rag2 in cell lines and primary mouse cells. Conversely, Gfi1b-deficient cell lines exhibit increased Rag expression, double-strand breaks and recombination, and cell cycle defects. In primary cells, transcription of Gfi1b inversely correlates with Rag transcription, and simultaneous inactivation of Gfi1 and Gfi1b leads to an increase in Rag transcription early in B cell development. In addition, deletion of Gfi1 and Gfi1b in vivo results in a severe block in B cell development. Gfi1b orchestrates Rag repression via a dual mechanism. Direct binding of Gfi1b to a site 5' of the B cell-specific Erag enhancer results in epigenetic changes in the Rag locus, whereas indirect inhibition is achieved through repression of the trans-activator Foxo1. Together, our experiments show that Gfi family members are essential for normal B cell development and play an important role in modulating expression of the V(D)J recombinase.
Project description:Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children, occurs with increased frequency in individuals with Fanconi anemia who have biallelic germline mutations in BRCA2. We describe an 8-year-old child who had disseminated anaplastic medulloblastoma and a deleterious heterozygous BRCA2 6174delT germline mutation. Molecular profiling was consistent with Group 4 medulloblastoma. The posterior fossa mass was resected and the patient received intensive chemotherapy and craniospinal irradiation. Despite this, the patient succumbed to a second recurrence of his medulloblastoma, which presented 8?months after diagnosis as malignant pleural and peritoneal effusions. Continuous medulloblastoma cell lines were isolated from the original tumor (CHLA-01-MED) and the malignant pleural effusion (CHLA-01R-MED). Here, we provide their analyses, including in vitro and in vivo growth, drug sensitivity, comparative genomic hybridization, and next generation sequencing analysis. In addition to the BRCA2 6174delT, the medulloblastoma cells had amplification of MYC, deletion at Xp11.2, and isochromosome 17, but no structural variations or overexpression of GFI1 or GFI1B. To our knowledge, this is the first pair of diagnosis/recurrence medulloblastoma cell lines, the only medulloblastoma cell lines with BRCA2 6174delT described to date, and the first reported case of a child with medulloblastoma associated with a germline BRCA2 6174delT who did not also have Fanconi anemia.