Identification of genes transcriptionally responsive to the loss of MLL fusions in MLL-rearranged acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
ABSTRACT: MLL-rearranged acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in infants (<1 year) is characterized by high relapse rates and a dismal prognosis. To facilitate the discovery of novel therapeutic targets, we here searched for genes directly influenced by the repression of various MLL fusions.For this, we performed gene expression profiling after siRNA-mediated repression of MLL-AF4, MLL-ENL, and AF4-MLL in MLL-rearranged ALL cell line models. The obtained results were compared with various already established gene signatures including those consisting of known MLL-AF4 target genes, or those associated with primary MLL-rearranged infant ALL samples.Genes that were down-regulated in response to the repression of MLL-AF4 and MLL-ENL appeared characteristically expressed in primary MLL-rearranged infant ALL samples, and often represented known MLL-AF4 targets genes. Genes that were up-regulated in response to the repression of MLL-AF4 and MLL-ENL often represented genes typically silenced by promoter hypermethylation in MLL-rearranged infant ALL. Genes that were affected in response to the repression of AF4-MLL showed significant enrichment in gene expression profiles associated with AF4-MLL expressing t(4;11)+ infant ALL patient samples.We conclude that the here identified genes readily responsive to the loss of MLL fusion expression potentially represent attractive therapeutic targets and may provide additional insights in MLL-rearranged acute leukemias.
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: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:B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the commonest childhood cancer. In infants, B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia remains fatal, especially in patients with t(4;11), present in ~80% of cases. The pathogenesis of t(4;11)/KMT2A-AFF1+ (MLL-AF4+) infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia remains difficult to model, and the pathogenic contribution in cancer of the reciprocal fusions resulting from derivative translocated-chromosomes remains obscure. Here, "multi-layered" genome-wide analyses and validation were performed on a total of 124 de novo cases of infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia uniformly diagnosed and treated according to the Interfant 99/06 protocol. These patients showed the most silent mutational landscape reported so far for any sequenced pediatric cancer. Recurrent mutations were exclusively found in K-RAS and N-RAS, were subclonal and were frequently lost at relapse, despite a larger number of non-recurrent/non-silent mutations. Unlike non-MLL-rearranged B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias, B-cell receptor repertoire analysis revealed minor, non-expanded B-cell clones in t(4;11)+ infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and RNA-sequencing showed transcriptomic similarities between t(4;11)+ infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias and the most immature human fetal liver hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, confirming a "pre-VDJ" fetal cellular origin for both t(4;11) and RAS mut The reciprocal fusion AF4-MLL was expressed in only 45% (19/43) of the t(4;11)+ patients, and HOXA cluster genes are exclusively expressed in AF4-MLL-expressing patients. Importantly, AF4-MLL/HOXA-expressing patients had a significantly better 4-year event-free survival (62.4% vs 11.7%, P=0.001), and overall survival (73.7 vs 25.2%, P=0.016). AF4-MLL expression retained its prognostic significance when analyzed in a Cox model adjusting for risk stratification according to the Interfant-06 protocol based on age at diagnosis, white blood cell count and response to prednisone. This study has clinical implications for disease outcome and diagnostic risk-stratification of t(4;11)+ infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Project description:Targeted therapies designed to exploit specific molecular pathways in aggressive cancers are an exciting area of current research. Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) mutations such as the t(4;11) translocation cause aggressive leukemias that are refractory to conventional treatment. The t(4;11) translocation produces an MLL/AF4 fusion protein that activates key target genes through both epigenetic and transcriptional elongation mechanisms. In this study, we show that t(4;11) patient cells express high levels of BCL-2 and are highly sensitive to treatment with the BCL-2-specific BH3 mimetic ABT-199. We demonstrate that MLL/AF4 specifically upregulates the BCL-2 gene but not other BCL-2 family members via DOT1L-mediated H3K79me2/3. We use this information to show that a t(4;11) cell line is sensitive to a combination of ABT-199 and DOT1L inhibitors. In addition, ABT-199 synergizes with standard induction-type therapy in a xenotransplant model, advocating for the introduction of ABT-199 into therapeutic regimens for MLL-rearranged leukemias.
Project description:The translocation t(4;11)(q21;q23) is the hallmark genetic abnormality associated with infant pro-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) and has the highest frequency of rearrangement in Mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) leukemias. Unlike other MLL translocations, MLL-AF4-induced proB-ALL is exceptionally difficult to model in mice/humans. Previous work has investigated the relevance of the reciprocal translocation fusion protein AF4-MLL for t(4;11) leukemia, finding that AF4-MLL is capable of inducing proB-ALL without requirement for MLL-AF4 when expressed in murine hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs). Therefore, AF4-MLL might represent a key genetic lesion contributing to t(4;11)-driven leukemogenesis. Here, we aimed to establish a humanized mouse model by using AF4-MLL to analyze its transformation potential in human cord blood-derived CD34+ HSPCs. We show that AF4-MLL-expressing human CD34+ HSPCs provide enhanced long-term hematopoietic reconstitution in primary immunodeficient recipients but are not endowed with subsequent self-renewal ability upon serial transplantation. Importantly, expression of AF4-MLL in primary neonatal CD34+ HSPCs failed to render any phenotypic or hematological sign of disease, and was therefore not sufficient to initiate leukemia within a 36-week follow-up. Species-specific (epi)-genetic intrinsic determinants may underlie the different outcome observed when AF4-MLL is expressed in murine or human HSPCs.
Project description:Chromosomal rearrangements of the human MLL (mixed lineage leukemia) gene are associated with high-risk infant, pediatric, adult and therapy-induced acute leukemias. We used long-distance inverse-polymerase chain reaction to characterize the chromosomal rearrangement of individual acute leukemia patients. We present data of the molecular characterization of 1590 MLL-rearranged biopsy samples obtained from acute leukemia patients. The precise localization of genomic breakpoints within the MLL gene and the involved translocation partner genes (TPGs) were determined and novel TPGs identified. All patients were classified according to their gender (852 females and 745 males), age at diagnosis (558 infant, 416 pediatric and 616 adult leukemia patients) and other clinical criteria. Combined data of our study and recently published data revealed a total of 121 different MLL rearrangements, of which 79 TPGs are now characterized at the molecular level. However, only seven rearrangements seem to be predominantly associated with illegitimate recombinations of the MLL gene (? 90%): AFF1/AF4, MLLT3/AF9, MLLT1/ENL, MLLT10/AF10, ELL, partial tandem duplications (MLL PTDs) and MLLT4/AF6, respectively. The MLL breakpoint distributions for all clinical relevant subtypes (gender, disease type, age at diagnosis, reciprocal, complex and therapy-induced translocations) are presented. Finally, we present the extending network of reciprocal MLL fusions deriving from complex rearrangements.
Project description:The most frequent MLL-gene rearrangement found in leukemia is a reciprocal translocation with AF4 on chromosome 4 resulting in the formation of the MLL-AF4 and the AF4-MLL fusion genes. The oncogenic role of MLL-AF4 is documented but the significance of the reciprocal product - AF4-MLL in leukemia is less clear. In the human leukemia cell lines - RS4;11 and SEMK2-M1, both of which express MLL-AF4 and AF4-MLL, we knocked down the expression of AF4-MLL using siRNA. Loss of AF4-MLL had no effect on the growth of either RS4;11 or SEMK2-M1 cells. Furthermore, in SEMK2-M1 cells there were no changes in cell cycle or apoptosis with loss of AF4-MLL. In contrast, knockdown of MLL-AF4 significantly inhibited growth of both RS4;11 and SEMK2-M1. Additionally, in SEMK2-M1 cells, loss of MLL-AF4 led to G2/M cell cycle arrest and increased apoptosis. Overall, these results demonstrate that in t(4;11) leukemia, the MLL-AF4 fusion protein is critical for leukemia cell proliferation and survival while the AF4-MLL fusion product is dispensable.
Project description:T(4;11) MLL-AF4 acute leukemia is one of the most aggressive malignancies in infant and pediatric populations. Epidemiological and functional studies have highlighted the influence of an overstimulation of the immune system on leukemia development. This study aimed at assessing if the cell-of-origin of t(4;11) MLL-AF4 acute leukemia is sensitive to a viral or bacterial mimic and if maternal immune activation can lead to a full-blown leukemia. To answer this, we used the Mll-AF4 pre-leukemia mouse model that initiates the expression of Mll-AF4 in the first definitive hematopoietic cells formed during embryonic development. We observed an increase in proliferation upon hematopoietic differentiation of fetal liver Mll-AF4+ Lineage-Sca1+ckit+ (LSK) cells exposed to the immune stimulants, poly(I:C) or LPS/lipopolysaccharide. This was accompanied by increased expression of a subset of MLL-AF4 signature genes and members of the Toll-like receptor signaling pathways in fetal liver Mll-AF4+ LSK exposed to poly(I:C), suggesting that the cell-of-origin responds to inflammatory stimuli. Maternal immune activation using a single dose of poly(I:C) did not lead to the development of leukemia in Mll-AF4+ and control offspring. Instead, aging MLL-AF4+ mice showed an increased proportion of T-lymphoid cells in the spleen, lost their B-lymphoid bias, and had decreased frequencies of hematopoietic stem and multipotent progenitor cells. Overall, this study suggests that the fetal liver Mll-AF4+ LSK cells are sensitive to direct exposure to inflammatory stimuli, especially poly(I:C); however, maternal immune activation induced by a single exposure to poly(I:C) is not sufficient to initiate MLL-AF4 leukemogenesis.
Project description:The t(4;11)(q21;q23) translocation is associated with high-risk infant pro-B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and arises prenatally during embryonic/fetal hematopoiesis. The developmental/pathogenic contribution of the t(4;11)-resulting MLL-AF4 (MA4) and AF4-MLL (A4M) fusions remains unclear; MA4 is always expressed in patients with t(4;11)+ B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but the reciprocal fusion A4M is expressed in only half of the patients. Because prenatal leukemogenesis manifests as impaired early hematopoietic differentiation, we took advantage of well-established human embryonic stem cell-based hematopoietic differentiation models to study whether the A4M fusion cooperates with MA4 during early human hematopoietic development. Co-expression of A4M and MA4 strongly promoted the emergence of hemato-endothelial precursors, both endothelial- and hemogenic-primed. Double fusion-expressing hemato-endothelial precursors specified into significantly higher numbers of both hematopoietic and endothelial-committed cells, irrespective of the differentiation protocol used and without hijacking survival/proliferation. Functional analysis of differentially expressed genes and differentially enriched H3K79me3 genomic regions by RNA-sequencing and H3K79me3 chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing, respectively, confirmed a hematopoietic/endothelial cell differentiation signature in double fusion-expressing hemato-endothelial precursors. Importantly, chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing analysis revealed a significant enrichment of H3K79 methylated regions specifically associated with HOX-A cluster genes in double fusion-expressing differentiating hematopoietic cells. Overall, these results establish a functional and molecular cooperation between MA4 and A4M fusions during human hematopoietic development.
Project description:Infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with MLL gene rearrangements is characterized by early pre-B phenotype (CD10(-)/CD19(+)) and poor treatment outcome. The t(4;11), creating MLL-AF4 chimeric transcripts, is the predominant 11q23 chromosome translocation in infant ALL and is associated with extremely poor prognosis as compared with other 11q23 translocations. We analyzed an infant early preB ALL with ins(5;11)(q31;q13q23) and identified the AF5q31 gene on chromosome 5q31 as a fusion partner of the MLL gene. The AF5q31 gene, which encoded a protein of 1,163 aa, was located in the vicinity of the cytokine cluster region of chromosome 5q31 and contained at least 16 exons. The AF5q31 gene was expressed in fetal heart, lung, and brain at relatively high levels and fetal liver at a low level, but the expression in these tissues decreased in adults. The AF5q31 protein was homologous to AF4-related proteins, including AF4, LAF4, and FMR2. The AF5q31 and AF4 proteins had three homologous regions, including the transactivation domain of AF4, and the breakpoint of AF5q31 was located within the region homologous to the transactivation domain of AF4. Furthermore, the clinical features of this patient with the MLL-AF5q31 fusion transcript, characterized by the early pre-B phenotype (CD10(-)/CD19(+)) and poor outcome, were similar to those of patients having MLL-AF4 chimeric transcripts. These findings suggest that AF5q31 and AF4 might define a new family particularly involved in the pathogenesis of 11q23-associated-ALL.