Thioridazine requires calcium influx to induce MLL-AF6-rearranged AML cell death.
ABSTRACT: 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 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: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: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: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:Translocations involving chromosome 11q23 frequently occur in pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and are associated with poor prognosis. In most cases, the MLL gene is involved, and more than 50 translocation partners have been described. Clinical outcome data of the 11q23-rearranged subgroups are scarce because most 11q23 series are too small for meaningful analysis of subgroups, although some studies suggest that patients with t(9;11)(p22;q23) have a more favorable prognosis. We retrospectively collected outcome data of 756 children with 11q23- or MLL-rearranged AML from 11 collaborative groups to identify differences in outcome based on translocation partners. All karyotypes were centrally reviewed before assigning patients to subgroups. The event-free survival of 11q23/MLL-rearranged pediatric AML at 5 years from diagnosis was 44% (+/- 5%), with large differences across subgroups (11% +/- 5% to 92% +/- 5%). Multivariate analysis identified the following subgroups as independent prognostic predictors: t(1;11)(q21;q23) (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.1, P = .004); t(6;11)(q27;q23) (HR = 2.2, P < .001); t(10;11)(p12;q23) (HR = 1.5, P = .005); and t(10;11)(p11.2;q23) (HR = 2.5, P = .005). We could not confirm the favorable prognosis of the t(9;11)(p22;q23) subgroup. We identified large differences in outcome within 11q23/MLL-rearranged pediatric AML and novel subgroups based on translocation partners that independently predict clinical outcome. Screening for these translocation partners is needed for accurate treatment stratification at diagnosis.
Project description:We completed a phase 1 dose-escalation trial to evaluate the safety of a dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) antagonist thioridazine (TDZ), in combination with cytarabine. Thirteen patients 55 years and older with relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) were enrolled. Oral TDZ was administered at 3 dose levels: 25 mg (n = 6), 50 mg (n = 4), or 100 mg (n = 3) every 6 hours for 21 days. Intermediate-dose cytarabine was administered on days 6 to 10. Dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs) included grade 3 QTc interval prolongation in 1 patient at 25 mg TDZ and neurological events in 2 patients at 100 mg TDZ (gait disturbance, depressed consciousness, and dizziness). At the 50-mg TDZ dose, the sum of circulating DRD2 antagonist levels approached a concentration of 10 μM, a level noted to be selectively active against human AML in vitro. Eleven of 13 patients completed a 5-day lead-in with TDZ, of which 6 received TDZ with hydroxyurea and 5 received TDZ alone. During this period, 8 patients demonstrated a 19% to 55% reduction in blast levels, whereas 3 patients displayed progressive disease. The extent of blast reduction during this 5-day interval was associated with the expression of the putative TDZ target receptor DRD2 on leukemic cells. These preliminary results suggest that DRD2 represents a potential therapeutic target for AML disease. Future studies are required to corroborate these observations, including the use of modified DRD2 antagonists with improved tolerability in AML patients. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT02096289.
Project description:The MLL gene on chromosome 11 fuses to the AF6 gene on chromosome 6 in a balanced chromosomal translocation that is characetristic of certain adult and pediatric human leukemias. We established a murine leukemia model of MLL-AF6 using the retroviral MLL-AF6 contruct in a bone marrow transplantation system. The ML2 human MLL-AF6 positive leukemia cell line was used for gene expression profiling to assess the transctiptional profile in MLL-AF6 leukemias. Overall design: RNA was extracted from the ML2 cell line cultured under standard conditionswith TRIZOL (Invitrogen), purified using RNAeasy(Qiagen) and hybridized onto Affymetrix arrays.
Project description:The MLL gene on chromosome 11 fuses to the AF6 gene on chromosome 6 in a balanced chromosomal translocation that is characetristic of certain adult and pediatric human leukemias. We established a murine leukemia model of MLL-AF6 using the retroviral MLL-AF6 contruct in a bone marrow transplantation system. The ML2 human MLL-AF6 positive leukemia cell line was used for gene expression profiling to assess the transctiptional profile in MLL-AF6 leukemias. RNA was extracted from the ML2 cell line cultured under standard conditionswith TRIZOL (Invitrogen), purified using RNAeasy(Qiagen) and hybridized onto Affymetrix arrays.
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.