Targeting the Epigenetic Lesion in MLL-Rearranged Leukemia

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Targeting the Epigenetic Lesion in MLL-Rearranged Leukemia

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Title: Targeting the Epigenetic Lesion in MLL-Rearranged Leukemia
Author: Chen, Liying Michelle
Citation: Chen, Liying Michelle. 2012. Targeting the Epigenetic Lesion in MLL-Rearranged Leukemia. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: It has become increasingly apparent that the misregulation of histone modification actively contributes to cancer. The histone H3 lysine 79 (H3K79) methyltransferase Dot1l has been implicated in the development of leukemias bearing translocations of the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene. We studied the global epigenetic profile for H3K79 dimethylation and found abnormal H3K79 dimethylation profiles exist not only in leukemias driven by MLL-fusion proteins with nuclear partners like AF9, but also in leukemia with MLL-fusions containing cytoplasmic partners like AF6. Genetic inactivation of Dot1l led to downregulation of fusion target genes and impaired both in vitro bone marrow transformation and in vivo leukemia development by MLL-AF10, CALM-AF10 as well as MLL-AF6, suggesting that aberrant H3K79 methylation by DOT1L sustains fusion-target gene expression in MLL rearranged leukemias and CALM-AF10 rearranged leukemias. Pharmacological inhibition of DOT1L selectively killed MLL-AF10 and MLL-AF6 transformed cells but not Hox9/Meis1 transformed cells, pointing to DOT1L as a potential therapeutic target in MLL-rearranged leukemia. We further characterized the DOT1L complex under physiological conditions from human leukemia cells and identified AF10 as a key DOT1L complex component. Given the importance of H3K79 methylation in MLL-rearranged leukemia, we sought to study the role of DOT1L complex component AF10 in H3K79 methylation and MLL leukemia. We generated conditional knockout mice in which the Dot1l-interacting octapeptide-motif leucine-zipper (OM-LZ) domain of Af10 was flanked by LoxP sites. Cre induced deletion of \(Af10^{OM-LZ}\) is predicted to abrogate the Af10-Dot1l interaction. Our histone mass spectrometry data demonstrated that deletion of the endogenous \(Af10^{OM-LZ}\) domain abrogated global H3K79 dimethylation but retained H3K79 monomethylation. Interestingly, bone marrow transformation by MLLAF6 and MLL-AF9 is abrogated by induced deletion of endogenous \(Af10^{OM-LZ}\), while bone marrow transformation by MLL-AF10 and CALM-AF10 is not affected by deletion of endogenous \(Af10^{OM-LZ}\), confirming the importance of Af10-Dot1l interaction in MLL- or CALM fusion-leukemias. Moreover, we showed \(Af10^{OM-LZ}\) deletion prolonged survival of MLL-AF9 leukemia in vivo and led to chromotin compaction and downregulation of MLL fusion targets in MLL-AF9 leukemia. Therefore our results demonstrate a role for Af10 in the conversion of H3K79 monomethylation to dimethylation and reveal the AF10-DOT1L interaction as an attractive therapeutic target in MLL-rearranged leukemias.
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