The AF4-MLL fusion transiently augments multilineage hematopoietic engraftment but is not sufficient to initiate leukemia in cord blood CD34+ cells.
ABSTRACT: 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:We have recently demonstrated that Taspase1-mediated cleavage of the AF4-MLL oncoprotein results in the formation of a stable multiprotein complex which forms the key event for the onset of acute proB leukemia in mice. Therefore, Taspase1 represents a conditional oncoprotein in the context of t(4;11) leukemia. In this report, we used site-directed mutagenesis to unravel the molecular events by which Taspase1 becomes sequentially activated. Monomeric pro-enzymes form dimers which are autocatalytically processed into the enzymatically active form of Taspase1 (????). The active enzyme cleaves only very few target proteins, e.g., MLL, MLL4 and TFIIA at their corresponding consensus cleavage sites (CSTasp1) as well as AF4-MLL in the case of leukemogenic translocation. This knowledge was translated into the design of a dominant-negative mutant of Taspase1 (dnTASP1). As expected, simultaneous expression of the leukemogenic AF4-MLL and dnTASP1 causes the disappearance of the leukemogenic oncoprotein, because the uncleaved AF4-MLL protein (328 kDa) is subject to proteasomal degradation, while the cleaved AF4-MLL forms a stable oncogenic multi-protein complex with a very long half-life. Moreover, coexpression of dnTASP1 with a BFP-CSTasp1-GFP FRET biosensor effectively inhibits cleavage. The impact of our findings on future drug development and potential treatment options for t(4;11) leukemia will be discussed.
Project description:Mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) (KMT2A) rearrangements (KMT2Ar) play a crucial role in leukemogenesis. Dependent on age, major differences exist regarding disease frequency, main fusion partners and prognosis. In infants, up to 80% of acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL) bear a MLL translocation and half of them are t(4;11), resulting in a poor prognosis. In contrast, in adults only 10% of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) bear t(9;11) with an intermediate prognosis. The reasons for these differences are poorly understood. Recently, we established an efficient CRISPR/Cas9-based KMT2Ar model in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) derived from human cord blood (huCB) and faithfully mimicked the underlying biology of the disease. Here, we applied this model to HSPCs from adult bone marrow (huBM) to investigate the impact of the cell of origin and fusion partner on disease development. Both genome-edited infant and adult KMT2Ar cells showed monoclonal outgrowth with an immature morphology, myelomonocytic phenotype and elevated KMT2Ar target gene expression comparable to patient cells. Strikingly, all KMT2Ar cells presented with indefinite growth potential except for MLL-AF4 huBM cells ceasing proliferation after 80 days. We uncovered FFAR2, an epigenetic tumor suppressor, as potentially responsible for the inability of MLL-AF4 to immortalize adult cells under myeloid conditions.
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: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: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: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:A chromosomal translocation, t(4;11)-(q21;q23), is associated with an aggressive mixed-lineage leukemia. A yeast artificial chromosome was used to clone the chromosomal breakpoint of this translocation in the RS4;11 cell line. The breakpoint sequences revealed an inverted repeat bordered by a consensus site for topoisomerase II binding and cleavage as well as chi-like elements. The der(11) chromosome encodes a fusion RNA and predicted chimeric protein between the 11q23 gene MLL and a 4q21 gene designated AF4. The sequence of the complete open reading frame for this fusion transcript reveals the MLL protein to have homology with DNA methyltransferase, the Drosophila trithorax gene product, and the "AT-hook" motif of high-mobility-group proteins. An alternative splice that deletes the AT-hook region of MLL was identified. AF4 is a serine- and proline-rich putative transcription factor with a glutamine-rich carboxyl terminus. The composition of the complete MLL-AF4 fusion product argues that it may act through either a gain-of-function or a dominant negative mechanism in leukemogenesis.
Project description:One of the challenging questions in cancer biology is how a normal cell transforms into a cancer cell. There is strong evidence that specific chromosomal translocations are a key element in this transformation process. Our studies focus on understanding the developmental mechanism by which a normal stem or progenitor cell transforms into leukemia. Here we used engineered nucleases to induce simultaneous specific double strand breaks in the MLL gene and two different known translocation partners (AF4 and AF9), which resulted in specific chromosomal translocations in K562 cells as well as primary hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). The initiation of a specific MLL translocation in a small number of HSPCs likely mimics the leukemia-initiating event that occurs in patients. In our studies, the creation of specific MLL translocations in CD34+ cells was not sufficient to transform cells in vitro. Rather, a variety of fates was observed for translocation positive cells including cell loss over time, a transient proliferative advantage followed by loss of the clone, or a persistent proliferative advantage. These studies highlight the application of genome engineering tools in primary human HSPCs to induce and prospectively study the consequences of initiating translocation events in leukemia pathogenesis.
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:Transcriptome analysis by RNAseq of leukemia model promoted by MLL-Af4 or MLL-AF9 fusion proteins. We find each fusion protein promotes a specific gene signature correlating to those identified in patients Overall design: Human CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells were transduced with retrovirus expressing MLL-Af4 or MLL-AF9. Transduced cells were transplanted into immunodeficient mice to induce lymphoid leukemia or placed in myeloid in vitro culture. CD19+ lymphoid leukemia cells (3 AF9, 6 Af4), control health CD19+CD34+ proB cells (n=3) and 4 pairs of Af4 and AF9 CD33+CD19- myeloid culture cells were collected for RNA-seq