The basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor SHARP1 is an oncogenic driver in MLL-AF6 acute myelogenous leukemia.
ABSTRACT: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) with MLL gene rearrangements demonstrate unique gene expression profiles driven by MLL-fusion proteins. Here, we identify the circadian clock transcription factor SHARP1 as a novel oncogenic target in MLL-AF6 AML, which has the worst prognosis among all subtypes of MLL-rearranged AMLs. SHARP1 is expressed solely in MLL-AF6 AML, and its expression is regulated directly by MLL-AF6/DOT1L. Suppression of SHARP1 induces robust apoptosis of human MLL-AF6 AML cells. Genetic deletion in mice delays the development of leukemia and attenuated leukemia-initiating potential, while sparing normal hematopoiesis. Mechanistically, SHARP1 binds to transcriptionally active chromatin across the genome and activates genes critical for cell survival as well as key oncogenic targets of MLL-AF6. Our findings demonstrate the unique oncogenic role for SHARP1 in MLL-AF6 AML.
Project description:Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) with MLL gene rearrangements demonstrate unique gene expression profiles driven by MLL-fusion proteins. Here, we identify the circadian clock transcription factor SHARP1 as a novel oncogenic target in MLL-AF6 AML, which has the worst prognosis among all subtypes of MLL rearranged AMLs. SHARP1 is expressed solely in MLL-AF6 AML, and its expression is regulated directly by MLL-AF6 / DOT1L. Suppression of SHARP1 induces robust apoptosis of human MLL-AF6 AML cells. Genetic deletion in mice delays the development of leukemia and attenuated leukemia-initiating potential, while sparing normal hematopoiesis. Mechanistically, SHARP1 binds to transcriptionally active chromatin across the genome and activates genes critical for cell survival as well as key oncogenic targets of MLL-AF6. Our findings demonstrate the unique oncogenic role for SHARP1 in MLL-AF6 AML. Overall design: ChIP-seq and RNA-seq using ML-2 cells. ChIP-seq using SHI1 cells.
Project description:The t(6;11)(q27;q23) is a recurrent chromosomal rearrangement that encodes the MLLAF6 fusion oncoprotein and is observed in patients with diverse hematologic malignancies. The presence of the t(6;11)(q27;q23) has been linked to poor overall survival in patients with AML. In this study, we demonstrate that MLL-AF6 requires continued activity of the histone-methyltransferase DOT1L to maintain expression of the MLL-AF6-driven oncogenic gene-expression program. Using gene-expression analysis and genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation studies followed by next generation sequencing, we found that MLL-fusion target genes display markedly high levels of histone 3 at lysine 79 (H3K79) dimethylation in murine MLL-AF6 leukemias as well as in ML2, a human myelomonocytic leukemia cell line bearing the t(6;11)(q27;q23) translocation. Targeted disruption of Dot1l using a conditional knockout mouse model inhibited leukemogenesis mediated by the MLL-AF6 fusion oncogene. Moreover, both murine MLL-AF6-transformed cells as well as the human MLL-AF6-positive ML2 leukemia cell line displayed specific sensitivity to EPZ0004777, a recently described, selective, small-molecule inhibitor of Dot1l. Dot1l inhibition resulted in significantly decreased proliferation, decreased expression of MLL-AF6 target genes, and cell cycle arrest of MLL-AF6-transformed cells. These results indicate that patients bearing the t(6;11)(q27;q23) translocation may benefit from therapeutic agents targeting aberrant H3K79 methylation.
Project description:MLL is a common target for chromosomal translocations associated with acute leukemia resulting in its fusion with a large variety of nuclear or cytoplasmic proteins that may activate its oncogenic properties by distinct but poorly understood mechanisms. The MLL-AF6 fusion gene represents the most common leukemogenic fusion of mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) to a cytoplasmic partner protein. Here, we identified a highly conserved Ras association (RA1) domain at the amino-terminus of AF6 as the minimal region sufficient for MLL-AF6 mediated myeloid progenitor immortalization in vitro and short latency leukemogenesis in vivo. Moreover, the ability of RA1 to activate MLL oncogenesis is conserved with its Drosophila ortholog, Canoe. Although the AF6 RA1 domain has previously been defined as an interaction surface for guanosine triphosphate-bound Ras, single amino acid substitutions known to abolish the AF6-Ras interaction did not abrogate MLL-AF6-mediated oncogenesis. Furthermore, fusion of MLL to heterologous RA domains of c-Raf1 or RalGDS, or direct fusion of MLL to constitutively active K-RAS, H-RAS, or RAP1 was not sufficient for oncogenic activation of MLL. Rather, the AF6 RA1 domain efficiently mediated self-association, suggesting that constitutive MLL self-association is a more common pathogenic mechanism for MLL oncogenesis than indicated by previous studies of rare MLL fusion partners.
Project description:Elucidation of activation mechanisms governing protein fusions is essential for therapeutic development. MLL undergoes rearrangement with numerous partners, including a recurrent translocation fusing the epigenetic regulator to a cytoplasmic RAS effector, AF6/afadin. We show here that AF6 employs a non-canonical, evolutionarily conserved α-helix to bind RAS, unique to AF6 and the classical RASSF effectors. Further, all patients with MLL-AF6 translocations express fusion proteins missing only this helix from AF6, resulting in exposure of hydrophobic residues that induce dimerization. We provide evidence that oligomerization is the dominant mechanism driving oncogenesis from rare MLL translocation partners and employ our mechanistic understanding of MLL-AF6 to examine how dimers induce leukemia. Proteomic data resolve association of dimerized MLL with gene expression modulators, and inhibiting dimerization disrupts formation of these complexes while completely abrogating leukemogenesis in mice. Oncogenic gene translocations are thus selected under pressure from protein structure/function, underscoring the complex nature of chromosomal rearrangements.
Project description:In pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML), intensive chemotherapy and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are the cornerstones of treatment in high-risk cases, with severe late effects and a still high risk of disease recurrence as the main drawbacks. The identification of targeted, more effective, safer drugs is thus desirable. We performed a high-throughput drug-screening assay of 1280 compounds and identified thioridazine (TDZ), a drug that was highly selective for the t(6;11)(q27;q23) MLL-AF6 (6;11)AML rearrangement, which mediates a dramatically poor (below 20%) survival rate. TDZ induced cell death and irreversible progress toward the loss of leukemia cell clonogenic capacity in vitro. Thus, we explored its mechanism of action and found a profound cytoskeletal remodeling of blast cells that led to Ca2+ influx, triggering apoptosis through mitochondrial depolarization, confirming that this latter phenomenon occurs selectively in t(6;11)AML, for which AF6 does not work as a cytoskeletal regulator, because it is sequestered into the nucleus by the fusion gene. We confirmed TDZ-mediated t(6;11)AML toxicity in vivo and enhanced the drug's safety by developing novel TDZ analogues that exerted the same effect on leukemia reduction, but with lowered neuroleptic effects in vivo. Overall, these results refine the MLL-AF6 AML leukemogenic mechanism and suggest that the benefits of targeting it be corroborated in further clinical trials.
Project description:The proto-oncogene EVI1 (ecotropic viral integration site-1), located on chromosome band 3q26, is aberrantly expressed in human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with 3q26 rearrangements. In the current study, we showed, in a large AML cohort carrying 11q23 translocations, that ? 43% of all mixed lineage leukemia (MLL)-rearranged leukemias are EVI1(pos). High EVI1 expression occurs in AMLs expressing the MLL-AF6, -AF9, -AF10, -ENL, or -ELL fusion genes. In addition, we present evidence that EVI1(pos) MLL-rearranged AMLs differ molecularly, morphologically, and immunophenotypically from EVI1(neg) MLL-rearranged leukemias. In mouse bone marrow cells transduced with MLL-AF9, we show that MLL-AF9 fusion protein maintains Evi1 expression on transformation of Evi1(pos) HSCs. MLL-AF9 does not activate Evi1 expression in MLL-AF9-transformed granulocyte macrophage progenitors (GMPs) that were initially Evi1(neg). Moreover, shRNA-mediated knockdown of Evi1 in an Evi1(pos) MLL-AF9 mouse model inhibits leukemia growth both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that Evi1 provides a growth-promoting signal. Using the Evi1(pos) MLL-AF9 mouse leukemia model, we demonstrate increased sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents on reduction of Evi1 expression. We conclude that EVI1 is a critical player in tumor growth in a subset of MLL-rearranged AMLs.
Project description:Homeotic (HOX) genes are dysregulated in multiple malignancies, including several AML subtypes. We demonstrate that H3K79 dimethylation (H3K79me2) is converted to monomethylation (H3K79me1) at HOX loci as hematopoietic cells mature, thus coinciding with a decrease in HOX gene expression. We show that H3K79 methyltransferase activity as well as H3K79me1-to-H3K79me2 conversion is regulated by the DOT1L cofactor AF10. AF10 inactivation reverses leukemia-associated epigenetic profiles, precludes abnormal HOXA gene expression, and impairs the transforming ability of MLL-AF9, MLL-AF6, and NUP98-NSD1 fusions-mechanistically distinct HOX-activating oncogenes. Furthermore, NUP98-NSD1-transformed cells are sensitive to small-molecule inhibition of DOT1L. Our findings demonstrate that pharmacological inhibition of the DOT1L/AF10 complex may provide therapeutic benefits in an array of malignancies with abnormal HOXA gene expression.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:The chromosomal rearrangements of the mixed-lineage leukemia gene MLL (KMT2A) have been extensively characterized as a potent oncogenic driver in leukemia. For its oncogenic function, most MLL-fusion proteins exploit the multienzyme super elongation complex leading to elevated expression of MLL target genes. High expression of MLL target genes overwrites the normal hematopoietic differentiation program, resulting in undifferentiated blasts characterized by the capacity to self-renew. Although extensive resources devoted to increased understanding of therapeutic targets to overcome de-differentiation in ALL/AML, the inter-dependencies of targets are still not well described. The majority of inhibitors potentially interfering with MLL-fusion protein driven transformation have been characterized in individual studies, which so far hindered their direct cross-comparison. METHODS:In our study, we characterized head-to-head clinical stage inhibitors for BET, DHODH, DOT1L as well as two novel inhibitors for CDK9 and the Menin-MLL interaction with a focus on differentiation induction. We profiled those inhibitors for global gene expression effects in a large cell line panel and examined cellular responses such as inhibition of proliferation, apoptosis induction, cell cycle arrest, surface marker expression, morphological phenotype changes, and phagocytosis as functional differentiation readout. We also verified the combination potential of those inhibitors on proliferation and differentiation level. RESULTS:Our analysis revealed significant differences in differentiation induction and in modulating MLL-fusion target gene expression. We observed Menin-MLL and DOT1L inhibitors act very specifically on MLL-fused leukemia cell lines, whereas inhibitors of BET, DHODH and P-TEFb have strong effects beyond MLL-fusions. Significant differentiation effects were detected for Menin-MLL, DOT1L, and DHODH inhibitors, whereas BET and CDK9 inhibitors primarily induced apoptosis in AML/ALL cancer models. For the first time, we explored combination potential of the abovementioned inhibitors with regards to overcoming the differentiation blockage. CONCLUSION:Our findings show substantial diversity in the molecular activities of those inhibitors and provide valuable insights into the further developmental potential as single agents or in combinations in MLL-fused leukemia.
Project description:DOT1L, the only known histone H3-lysine 79 (H3K79) methyltransferase, has been shown to be essential for the survival and proliferation of mixed-linkage leukemia (MLL) gene rearranged leukemia cells, which are often resistant to conventional chemotherapeutic agents. To study the functions of DOT1L in MLL-rearranged leukemia, SYC-522, a potent inhibitor of DOT1L developed in our laboratory, was used to treat MLL-rearranged leukemia cell lines and patient samples. SYC-522 significantly inhibited methylation at H3K79, but not H3K4 or H3K27, and decreased the expression of two important leukemia-relevant genes, HOXA9 and MEIS1, by more than 50%. It also significantly reduced the expression of CCND1 and BCL2L1, which are important regulators of cell cycle and anti-apoptotic signaling pathways. Exposure of MLL-rearranged leukemia cells to this compound caused cell cycle arrest and promoted differentiation of those cells, both morphologically and by increased CD14 expression. SYC-522 did not induce apoptosis, even at 10 µM for as long as 6 days. However, treatment with this DOT1L inhibitor decreased the colony formation ability of primary MLL-rearranged AML cells by up to 50%, and promoted monocytic differentiation. Notably, SYC-522 treatment significantly increased the sensitivity of MLL-rearranged leukemia cells to chemotherapeutics, such as mitoxantrone, etoposide and cytarabine. A similar sensitization was seen with primary MLL-rearranged AML cells. SYC-522 did not affect chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in leukemia cells without MLL-rearrangement. Suppression of DOT1L activity inhibited the mitoxantrone-induced increase in the DNA damage response marker, ?H2AX, and increased the level of cPARP, an intracellular marker of apoptosis. These results demonstrated that SYC-522 selectively inhibited DOT1L, and thereby altered gene expression, promoted differentiation, and increased chemosensitivity by preventing DNA damage response. Therefore, inhibition of DOT1L, in combination with DNA damaging chemotherapy, represents a promising approach to improving outcomes for MLL-rearranged leukemia.
Project description:Chromosomal translocations of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene are a common cause of acute leukemias. The oncogenic function of MLL fusion proteins is, in part, mediated through aberrant activation of Hoxa genes and Meis1, among others. Here we demonstrate using a tamoxifen-inducible Cre-mediated loss of function mouse model that DOT1L, an H3K79 methyltransferase, is required for both initiation and maintenance of MLL-AF9-induced leukemogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Through gene expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis we demonstrate that mistargeting of DOT1L, subsequent H3K79 methylation, and up-regulation of Hoxa and Meis1 genes underlie the molecular mechanism of how DOT1L contributes to MLL-AF9-mediated leukemogenesis. Our study not only provides the first in vivo evidence for the function of DOT1L in leukemia, but also reveals the molecular mechanism for DOT1L in MLL-AF9 mediated leukemia. Thus, DOT1L may serve as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of leukemia caused by MLL translocations.