AF4 uses the SL1 components of RNAP1 machinery to initiate MLL fusion- and AEP-dependent transcription.
ABSTRACT: Gene rearrangements generate MLL fusion genes, which can lead to aggressive leukemia. In most cases, MLL fuses with a gene encoding a component of the AEP (AF4 family/ENL family/P-TEFb) coactivator complex. MLL-AEP fusion proteins constitutively activate their target genes to immortalize haematopoietic progenitors. Here we show that AEP and MLL-AEP fusion proteins activate transcription through selectivity factor 1 (SL1), a core component of the pre-initiation complex (PIC) of RNA polymerase I (RNAP1). The pSER domain of AF4 family proteins associates with SL1 on chromatin and loads TATA-binding protein (TBP) onto the promoter to initiate RNA polymerase II (RNAP2)-dependent transcription. These results reveal a previously unknown transcription initiation mechanism involving AEP and a role for SL1 as a TBP-loading factor in RNAP2-dependent gene activation.
Project description:Gene rearrangement of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene causes leukemia by inducing the constitutive expression of a gene subset normally expressed only in the immature haematopoietic progenitor cells. MLL gene rearrangements often generate fusion products of MLL and a component of the AF4 family/ENL family/P-TEFb (AEP) complex. MLL-AEP fusion proteins have the potential of constitutively recruiting the P-TEFb elongation complex. Thus, it is hypothesized that relieving the promoter proximal pausing of RNA polymerase II is the rate-limiting step of MLL fusion-dependent transcription. AEP also has the potential to recruit the mediator complex via MED26. We recently showed that AEP activates transcription initiation by facilitating TBP loading to the TATA element through the SL1 complex. In the present study, we show that the key activity responsible for the oncogenic property of MLL-AEP fusion proteins is the TBP loading activity, and not the mediator recruitment or transcriptional elongation activities. Thus, we propose that TBP loading by AF4 through SL1 is the major rate-limiting step in MLL fusion-dependent transcription.
Project description:Cancer cells transcribe RNAs in a characteristic manner in order to maintain their oncogenic potentials. In eukaryotes, RNA is polymerized by three distinct RNA polymerases, RNA polymerase I, II, and III (RNAP1, RNAP2, and RNAP3, respectively). The transcriptional machinery that initiates each transcription reaction has been purified and characterized. Selectivity factor 1 (SL1) is the complex responsible for RNAP1 pre-initiation complex formation. However, whether it plays any role in RNAP2-dependent transcription remains unclear. Our group previously found that SL1 specifically associates with AF4 family proteins. AF4 family proteins form the AEP complex with ENL family proteins and the P-TEFb elongation factor. Similar complexes have been independently characterized by several different laboratories and are often referred to as super elongation complex. The involvement of AEP in RNAP2-dependent transcription indicates that SL1 must play an important role in RNAP2-dependent transcription. To date, this role of SL1 has not been appreciated. In leukemia, AF4 and ENL family genes are frequently rearranged to form chimeric fusion genes with MLL. The resultant MLL fusion genes produce chimeric MLL fusion proteins comprising MLL and AEP components. The MLL portion functions as a targeting module, which specifically binds chromatin containing di-/tri-methylated histone H3 lysine 36 and non-methylated CpGs. This type of chromatin is enriched at the promoters of transcriptionally active genes which allows MLL fusion proteins to selectively bind to transcriptionally-active/CpG-rich gene promoters. The fusion partner portion, which recruits other AEP components and SL1, is responsible for activation of RNAP2-dependent transcription. Consequently, MLL fusion proteins constitutively activate the transcription of previously-transcribed MLL target genes. Structure/function analysis has shown that the ability of MLL fusion proteins to transform hematopoietic progenitors depends on the recruitment of AEP and SL1. Thus, the AEP/SL1-mediated gene activation pathway appears to be the central mechanism of MLL fusion-mediated transcriptional activation. However, the molecular mechanism by which SL1 activates RNAP2-dependent transcription remains largely unclear. This review aims to cover recent discoveries of the mechanism of transcriptional activation by MLL fusion proteins and to introduce novel roles of SL1 in RNAP2-dependent transcription by discussing how the RNAP1 machinery may be involved in RNAP2-dependent gene regulation.
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:AF4 and ENL family proteins are frequently fused with MLL, and they comprise a higher order complex (designated AEP) containing the P-TEFb transcription elongation factor. Here, we show that AEP is normally recruited to MLL-target chromatin to facilitate transcription. In contrast, MLL oncoproteins fused with AEP components constitutively form MLL/AEP hybrid complexes to cause sustained target gene expression, which leads to transformation of hematopoietic progenitors. Furthermore, MLL-AF6, an MLL fusion with a cytoplasmic protein, does not form such hybrid complexes, but nevertheless constitutively recruits AEP to target chromatin via unknown alternative mechanisms. Thus, AEP recruitment is an integral part of both physiological and pathological MLL-dependent transcriptional pathways. Bypass of its normal recruitment mechanisms is the strategy most frequently used by MLL oncoproteins.
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: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: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:We created a mouse model wherein conditional expression of an Mll-AF4 fusion oncogene induces B precursor acute lymphoblastic (ALL) or acute myeloid leukemias (AML). Gene expression profile analysis of the ALL cells demonstrated significant overlap with human MLL-rearranged ALL. ChIP-chip analysis demonstrated histone H3 lysine 79 (H3K79) methylation profiles that correlated with Mll-AF4-associated gene expression profiles in murine ALLs and in human MLL-rearranged leukemias. Human MLL-rearranged ALLs could be distinguished from other ALLs by their H3K79 profiles, and suppression of the H3K79 methyltransferase DOT1L inhibited expression of critical MLL-AF4 target genes. We thus demonstrate that ectopic H3K79 methylation is a distinguishing feature of murine and human MLL-AF4 ALLs and is important for maintenance of MLL-AF4-driven gene expression.
Project description:The 2 most frequent human MLL hematopoietic malignancies involve either AF4 or AF9 as fusion partners; each has distinct biology but the role of the fusion partner is not clear. We produced Mll-AF4 knock-in (KI) mice by homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells and compared them with Mll-AF9 KI mice. Young Mll-AF4 mice had lymphoid and myeloid deregulation manifest by increased lymphoid and myeloid cells in hematopoietic organs. In vitro, bone marrow cells from young mice formed unique mixed pro-B lymphoid (B220(+)CD19(+)CD43(+)sIgM(-), PAX5(+), TdT(+), IgH rearranged)/myeloid (CD11b/Mac1(+), c-fms(+), lysozyme(+)) colonies when grown in IL-7- and Flt3 ligand-containing media. Mixed lymphoid/myeloid hyperplasia and hematologic malignancies (most frequently B-cell lymphomas) developed in Mll-AF4 mice after prolonged latency; long latency to malignancy indicates that Mll-AF4-induced lymphoid/myeloid deregulation alone is insufficient to produce malignancy. In contrast, young Mll-AF9 mice had predominately myeloid deregulation in vivo and in vitro and developed myeloid malignancies. The early onset of distinct mixed lymphoid/myeloid lineage deregulation in Mll-AF4 mice shows evidence for both "instructive" and "noninstructive" roles for AF4 and AF9 as partners in MLL fusion genes. The molecular basis for "instruction" and secondary cooperating mutations can now be studied in our Mll-AF4 model.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Circular RNAs (circRNAs) represent a type of endogenous noncoding RNAs that are generated by back-splicing events and favor repetitive sequences. Recent studies have reported that cancer-associated chromosomal translocations could juxtapose distant complementary repetitive intronic sequences, resulting in the aberrant formation of circRNAs. However, among the reported fusion genes, only a small number of circRNAs were found to originate from fusion regions during gene translocation. We question if circRNAs could also originate from fusion partners during gene translocation. METHODS:Firstly, we designed divergent primers for qRT-PCR to identify a circRNA circAF4 in AF4 gene and investigated the expression pattern in different types of leukemia samples. Secondly, we designed two small interfering RNAs specially targeting the back-spliced junction point of circAF4 for functional studies. CCK8 cell proliferation and cell cycle assay were performed, and a NOD-SCID mouse model was used to investigate the contribution of circAF4 in leukemogenesis. Finally, luciferase reporter assay, AGO2 RNA immunoprecipitation (RIP), and RNA Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization (FISH) were performed to confirm the relationship of miR-128-3p, circAF4, and MLL-AF4 expression. RESULTS:We discovered a circRNA, named circAF4, originating from the AF4 gene, a partner of the MLL fusion gene in MLL-AF4 leukemia. We showed that circAF4 plays an oncogenic role in MLL-AF4 leukemia and promotes leukemogenesis in vitro and in vivo. More importantly, knockdown of circAF4 increases the leukemic cell apoptosis rate in MLL-AF4 leukemia cells, while no effect was observed in leukemia cells that do not carry the MLL-AF4 translocation. Mechanically, circAF4 can act as a miR-128-3p sponge, thereby releasing its inhibition on MLL-AF4 expression. We finally analyzed most of the MLL fusion genes loci and found that a number of circRNAs could originate from these partners, suggesting the potential roles of fusion gene partner-originating circRNAs (named as FP-circRNAs) in leukemia with chromosomal translocations. CONCLUSION:Our findings demonstrate that the abnormal elevated expression of circAF4 regulates the cell growth via the circAF4/miR-128-3p/MLL-AF4 axis, which could contribute to leukemogenesis, suggesting that circAF4 may be a novel therapeutic target of MLL-AF4 leukemia.