Cooperative gene activation by AF4 and DOT1L drives MLL-rearranged leukemia.
ABSTRACT: 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: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:The aim of this study was to better understand how mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) fusion proteins deregulate the expression of genes critical for leukemia.The transforming domain of one of the most common MLL fusion partners, AF9, was immunopurified after expression in myeloblastic M1 cells, and associating proteins were identified by mass spectrometric analysis. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to determine how binding of associating proteins compare across Hoxa9 and Meis1 in cell lines with and without MLL fusion proteins and how binding is altered during gene down-regulation and differentiation.Consistent with earlier purifications of ENL and AF4 from 293 cells, the 90 amino acid C-terminal domain of AF9 associates with many other MLL translocation partners including Enl, Af4, Laf4, Af5q31, Ell, and Af10. This complex, termed elongation assisting proteins (EAPs), also contains the RNA polymerase II C-terminal domain kinase Cdk9/Cyclin T1/T2 (pTEFb) and the histone H3 lysine 79 methyltransferase Dot1L. Myeloid cells transformed by MLL fusions show higher levels and a broader distribution of EAP components at genes critical for leukemia. Inhibition of EAP components pTEFb and Dot1l show that both contribute significantly to activation of Hoxa9 and Meis1 expression. EAP is dynamically associated with the Hoxa9 and Meis1 loci in hematopoietic cells and rapidly dissociates during induction of differentiation. In the presence of MLL fusion proteins, its dissociation is prevented.The findings suggest that MLL fusion proteins deregulate genes critical for leukemia by excessive recruitment and impaired dissociation of EAP from target loci.
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: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: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 mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL)-AF10 fusion oncoprotein recruits DOT1L to the homeobox A (HOXA) gene cluster through its octapeptide motif leucine zipper (OM-LZ), thereby inducing and maintaining the MLL-AF10-associated leukemogenesis. However, the recognition mechanism between DOT1L and MLL-AF10 is unclear. Here, we present the crystal structures of both apo AF10OM-LZ and its complex with the coiled-coil domain of DOT1L. Disruption of the DOT1L-AF10 interface abrogates MLL-AF10-associated leukemic transformation. We further show that zinc stabilizes the DOT1L-AF10 complex and may be involved in the regulation of the HOXA gene expression. Our studies may also pave the way for the rational design of therapeutic drugs against MLL-rearranged leukemia.
Project description:Chimeric proteins joining the histone methyltransferase MLL with various fusion partners trigger distinctive lymphoid and myeloid leukemias. Here, we immunopurified proteins associated with ENL, a protein commonly fused to MLL. Identification of these ENL-associated proteins (EAPs) by mass spectrometry revealed enzymes with a known role in transcriptional elongation (RNA polymerase II C-terminal domain kinase [RNAPolII CTD] positive transcription elongation factor b [pTEFb]), and in chromatin modification (histone-H3 methyltransferase DOT1L) as well as other frequent MLL partners (AF4, AF5q31, and LAF4), and polycomb group members (RING1, CBX8, and BCoR). The composition of EAP was further verified by coimmunoprecipitation, 2-hybrid analysis, pull-down, and colocalization experiments. Purified EAP showed a histone H3 lysine 79-specific methylase activity, displayed a robust RNAPolII CTD kinase function, and counteracted the effect of the pTEFb inhibitor 5,6-dichloro-benzimidazole-riboside. In vivo, an ENL knock-down diminished genome-wide as well as gene-specific H3K79 dimethylation, reduced global run-on elongation, and inhibited transient transcriptional reporter activity. According to structure-function data, DOT1L recruitment was important for transformation by the MLL-ENL fusion derivative. These results suggest a function of ENL in histone modification and transcriptional elongation.
Project description:The t(10;11)(p12;q23) translocation and the t(10;11)(p12;q14) translocation, which encode the MLL (mixed lineage leukemia)-AF10 and CALM (clathrin assembly lymphoid myeloid leukemia)-AF10 fusion oncoproteins, respectively, are two recurrent chromosomal rearrangements observed in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Here, we demonstrate that MLL-AF10 and CALM-AF10-mediated transformation is dependent on the H3K79 methyltransferase Dot1l using genetic and pharmacological approaches in mouse models. Targeted disruption of Dot1l using a conditional knockout mouse model abolished in vitro transformation of murine bone marrow cells and in vivo initiation and maintenance of MLL-AF10 or CALM-AF10 leukemia. The treatment of MLL-AF10 and CALM-AF10 transformed cells with EPZ004777, a specific small-molecule inhibitor of Dot1l, suppressed expression of leukemogenic genes such as Hoxa cluster genes and Meis1, and selectively impaired proliferation of MLL-AF10 and CALM-AF10 transformed cells. Pretreatment with EPZ004777 profoundly decreased the in vivo spleen-colony-forming ability of MLL-AF10 or CALM-AF10 transformed bone marrow cells. These results show that patients with leukemia-bearing chromosomal translocations that involve the AF10 gene may benefit from small-molecule therapeutics that inhibit H3K79 methylation.
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 MLL fusion proteins, AF9 and ENL, activate target genes in part via recruitment of the histone methyltransferase DOT1L (disruptor of telomeric silencing 1-like). Here we report biochemical, biophysical, and functional characterization of the interaction between DOT1L and MLL fusion proteins, AF9/ENL. The AF9/ENL-binding site in human DOT1L was mapped, and the interaction site was identified to a 10-amino acid region (DOT1L865-874). This region is highly conserved in DOT1L from a variety of species. Alanine scanning mutagenesis analysis shows that four conserved hydrophobic residues from the identified binding motif are essential for the interactions with AF9/ENL. Binding studies demonstrate that the entire intact C-terminal domain of AF9/ENL is required for optimal interaction with DOT1L. Functional studies show that the mapped AF9/ENL interacting site is essential for immortalization by MLL-AF9, indicating that DOT1L interaction with MLL-AF9 and its recruitment are required for transformation by MLL-AF9. These results strongly suggest that disruption of interaction between DOT1L and AF9/ENL is a promising therapeutic strategy with potentially fewer adverse effects than enzymatic inhibition of DOT1L for MLL fusion protein-associated leukemia.