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1.  AML1/ETO Oncoprotein Is Directed to AML1 Binding Regions and Co-Localizes with AML1 and HEB on Its Targets 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(11):e1000275.
A reciprocal translocation involving chromosomes 8 and 21 generates the AML1/ETO oncogenic transcription factor that initiates acute myeloid leukemia by recruiting co-repressor complexes to DNA. AML1/ETO interferes with the function of its wild-type counterpart, AML1, by directly targeting AML1 binding sites. However, transcriptional regulation determined by AML1/ETO probably relies on a more complex network, since the fusion protein has been shown to interact with a number of other transcription factors, in particular E-proteins, and may therefore target other sites on DNA. Genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation and expression profiling were exploited to identify AML1/ETO-dependent transcriptional regulation. AML1/ETO was found to co-localize with AML1, demonstrating that the fusion protein follows the binding pattern of the wild-type protein but does not function primarily by displacing it. The DNA binding profile of the E-protein HEB was grossly rearranged upon expression of AML1/ETO, and the fusion protein was found to co-localize with both AML1 and HEB on many of its regulated targets. Furthermore, the level of HEB protein was increased in both primary cells and cell lines expressing AML1/ETO. Our results suggest a major role for the functional interaction of AML1/ETO with AML1 and HEB in transcriptional regulation determined by the fusion protein.
Author Summary
Acute myeloid leukemias (AML) are a group of hematologic malignancies initiated by chromosomal abnormalities that often give origin to oncogenic proteins with transcriptional regulatory functions. These aberrant transcription factors bind to specific sequences on DNA and influence the activity of adjacent genes. The result is that leukemic blasts display abnormalities in their gene expression programs, which are ultimately responsible for the malignant phenotype. In this study, genome-wide approaches were exploited not only to identify target genes, but also to discover interactions among different transcription factors, with the aim of defining disease-linked regulatory networks. We performed a detailed analysis of the DNA binding pattern of an oncogenic transcription factor, AML1/ETO, which is responsible for approximately 10–15% of AML. We identified a specific signature, which is characterized by the presence of binding regions for AML1/ETO and for other transcription factors, AML1 and HEB, and found that the DNA binding pattern of AML1 and HEB is significantly affected in cells expressing AML1/ETO. Our results, therefore, describe genes regulated by AML1/ETO and demonstrate that this oncogenic protein can significantly interfere with the function of other transcriptional regulators.
PMCID: PMC2577924  PMID: 19043539
2.  Cooperation between RUNX1-ETO9a and Novel Transcriptional Partner KLF6 in Upregulation of Alox5 in Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003765.
Fusion protein RUNX1-ETO (AML1-ETO, RUNX1-RUNX1T1) is expressed as the result of the 8q22;21q22 translocation [t(8;21)], which is one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities found in acute myeloid leukemia. RUNX1-ETO is thought to promote leukemia development through the aberrant regulation of RUNX1 (AML1) target genes. Repression of these genes occurs via the recruitment of the corepressors N-COR and SMRT due to their interaction with ETO. Mechanisms of RUNX1-ETO target gene upregulation remain less well understood. Here we show that RUNX1-ETO9a, the leukemogenic alternatively spliced transcript expressed from t(8;21), upregulates target gene Alox5, which is a gene critically required for the promotion of chronic myeloid leukemia development by BCR-ABL. Loss of Alox5 expression reduces activity of RUNX1-ETO9a, MLL-AF9 and PML-RARα in vitro. However, Alox5 is not essential for the induction of leukemia by RUNX1-ETO9a in vivo. Finally, we demonstrate that the upregulation of Alox5 by RUNX1-ETO9a occurs via the C2H2 zinc finger transcription factor KLF6, a protein required for early hematopoiesis and yolk sac development. Furthermore, KLF6 is specifically upregulated by RUNX1-ETO in human leukemia cells. This identifies KLF6 as a novel mediator of t(8;21) target gene regulation, providing a new mechanism for RUNX1-ETO transcriptional control.
Author Summary
The 8;21 translocation is one of the most common genetic abnormalities present in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This translocation causes expression of the fusion gene RUNX1-ETO and its splicing isoforms. RUNX1-ETO proteins then reprogram the transcriptional landscape of the cell and cooperate with further mutations to induce leukemia development. In this study, we examine the transcriptional control of the RUNX1-ETO target gene Alox5. Although Alox5 appears to be dispensable for AML development in a mouse model, it is required for some RUNX1-ETO functions. In studying the regulation of Alox5 expression, we have discovered a novel RUNX1-ETO partner protein, KLF6, which is both upregulated by RUNX1-ETO and participates in RUNX1-ETO gene regulation. This provides new insight into the under-studied mechanisms of RUNX1-ETO target gene upregulation and identifies KLF6 as a potentially important protein for further study in t(8;21) AML development.
PMCID: PMC3794898  PMID: 24130502
3.  Functional and Physical Interactions between AML1 Proteins and an ETS Protein, MEF: Implications for the Pathogenesis of t(8;21)-Positive Leukemias 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1999;19(5):3635-3644.
The AML1 and ETS families of transcription factors play critical roles in hematopoiesis; AML1, and its non-DNA-binding heterodimer partner CBFβ, are essential for the development of definitive hematopoiesis in mice, whereas the absence of certain ETS proteins creates specific defects in lymphopoiesis or myelopoiesis. The promoter activities of numerous genes expressed in hematopoietic cells are regulated by AML1 proteins or ETS proteins. MEF (for myeloid ELF-1-like factor) is a recently cloned ETS family member that, like AML1B, can strongly transactivate several of these promoters, which led us to examine whether MEF functionally or physically interacts with AML1 proteins. In this study, we demonstrate direct interactions between MEF and AML1 proteins, including the AML1/ETO fusion protein, in t(8;21)-positive acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. Using mutational analysis, we identified a novel ETS-interacting subdomain (EID) in the C-terminal portion of the Runt homology domain (RHD) in AML1 proteins and determined that the N-terminal region of MEF was responsible for its interaction with AML1. MEF and AML1B synergistically transactivated an interleukin 3 promoter reporter gene construct, yet the activating activity of MEF was abolished when MEF was coexpressed with AML1/ETO. The repression by AML1/ETO was independent of DNA binding but depended on its ability to interact with MEF, suggesting that AML1/ETO can repress genes not normally regulated by AML1 via protein-protein interactions. Interference with MEF function by AML1/ETO may lead to dysregulation of genes important for myeloid differentiation, thereby contributing to the pathogenesis of t(8;21) AML.
PMCID: PMC84165  PMID: 10207087
4.  A distinct epigenetic signature at targets of a leukemia protein 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:38.
Human myelogenous leukemia characterized by either the non random t(8; 21)(q22; q22) or t(16; 21)(q24; q22) chromosome translocations differ for both their biological and clinical features. Some of these features could be consequent to differential epigenetic transcriptional deregulation at AML1 targets imposed by AML1-MTG8 and AML1-MTG16, the fusion proteins deriving from the two translocations. Preliminary findings showing that these fusion proteins lead to transcriptional downregulation of AML1 targets, marked by repressive chromatin changes, would support this hypothesis. Here we show that combining conventional global gene expression arrays with the power of bioinformatic genomic survey of AML1-consensus sequences is an effective strategy to identify AML1 targets whose transcription is epigenetically downregulated by the leukemia-associated AML1-MTG16 protein.
We interrogated mouse gene expression microarrays with probes generated either from 32D cells infected with a retroviral vector carrying AML1-MTG16 and unable of granulocyte differentiation and proliferation in response to the granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), or from 32D cells infected with the cognate empty vector. From the analysis of differential gene expression alone (using as criteria a p value < 0.01 and an absolute fold change > 3), we were unable to conclude which of the 37 genes downregulated by AML1-MTG16 were, or not, direct AML1 targets. However, when we applied a bioinformatic approach to search for AML1-consensus sequences in the 10 Kb around the gene transcription start sites, we closed on 17 potential direct AML1 targets. By focusing on the most significantly downregulated genes, we found that both the AML1-consensus and the transcription start site chromatin regions were significantly marked by aberrant repressive histone tail changes. Further, the promoter of one of these genes, containing a CpG island, was aberrantly methylated.
This study shows that a leukemia-associated fusion protein can impose a distinct epigenetic repressive signature at specific sites in the genome. These findings strengthen the conclusion that leukemia-specific oncoproteins can induce non-random epigenetic changes.
PMCID: PMC1796549  PMID: 17266773
5.  Depletion of RUNX1/ETO in t(8;21) AML cells leads to genome-wide changes in chromatin structure and transcription factor binding 
Leukemia  2012;26(8):1829-1841.
The t(8;21) translocation fuses the DNA-binding domain of the hematopoietic master regulator RUNX1 to the ETO protein. The resultant RUNX1/ETO fusion protein is a leukemia-initiating transcription factor that interferes with RUNX1 function. The result of this interference is a block in differentiation and, finally, the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). To obtain insights into RUNX1/ETO-dependant alterations of the epigenetic landscape, we measured genome-wide RUNX1- and RUNX1/ETO-bound regions in t(8;21) cells and assessed to what extent the effects of RUNX1/ETO on the epigenome depend on its continued expression in established leukemic cells. To this end, we determined dynamic alterations of histone acetylation, RNA Polymerase II binding and RUNX1 occupancy in the presence or absence of RUNX1/ETO using a knockdown approach. Combined global assessments of chromatin accessibility and kinetic gene expression data show that RUNX1/ETO controls the expression of important regulators of hematopoietic differentiation and self-renewal. We show that selective removal of RUNX1/ETO leads to a widespread reversal of epigenetic reprogramming and a genome-wide redistribution of RUNX1 binding, resulting in the inhibition of leukemic proliferation and self-renewal, and the induction of differentiation. This demonstrates that RUNX1/ETO represents a pivotal therapeutic target in AML.
PMCID: PMC3419980  PMID: 22343733
acute myeloid leukemia; RUNX1/ETO; epigenetic regulation; chromatin; integrated analysis of high-throughput data
6.  DNA Methylation Profiles and Their Relationship with Cytogenetic Status in Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12197.
Aberrant promoter DNA methylation has been shown to play a role in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) pathophysiology. However, further studies to discuss the prognostic value and the relationship of the epigenetic signatures with defined genomic rearrangements in acute myeloid leukemia are required.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We carried out high-throughput methylation profiling on 116 de novo AML cases and we validated the significant biomarkers in an independent cohort of 244 AML cases. Methylation signatures were associated with the presence of a specific cytogenetic status. In normal karyotype cases, aberrant methylation of the promoter of DBC1 was validated as a predictor of the disease-free and overall survival. Furthermore, DBC1 expression was significantly silenced in the aberrantly methylated samples. Patients with chromosome rearrangements showed distinct methylation signatures. To establish the role of fusion proteins in the epigenetic profiles, 20 additional samples of human hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPC) transduced with common fusion genes were studied and compared with patient samples carrying the same rearrangements. The presence of MLL rearrangements in HSPC induced the methylation profile observed in the MLL-positive primary samples. In contrast, fusion genes such as AML1/ETO or CBFB/MYH11 failed to reproduce the epigenetic signature observed in the patients.
Our study provides a comprehensive epigenetic profiling of AML, identifies new clinical markers for cases with a normal karyotype, and reveals relevant biological information related to the role of fusion proteins on the methylation signature.
PMCID: PMC2922373  PMID: 20808941
Oncogene  2008;27(36):4933-4942.
t(8;21)(q22;q22) results in the AML1-ETO (A1E) fusion gene and is a common cytogenetic abnormality in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Although insertions at the breakpoint region of the A1E fusion transcripts have been reported, additional structural alterations are largely uncharacterized. By RT-PCR amplifications and DNA sequencing, numerous in-frame and out-of-frame AML1b-ETO and AML1c-ETO transcripts were identified in 13 pediatric t(8;21) AMLs, likely resulting from alternate splicing, internal deletions, and/or breakpoint region insertions involving both the AML1 (RUNX1) and ETO regions. The in-frame A1E fusion transcript forms represented minor forms. These structure alterations were found in AML1c-ETO but not AML1b-ETO transcripts in 2 adult t(8;21) AMLs. Although no analogous alterations were detected in native AML1b transcripts, identical alterations in native ETO transcripts were identified. When transfected into HeLa cells, only AML1b, and not the in-frame A1E forms, transactivated the GM-CSF promoter. In co-transfection experiments, the effects of A1E proteins on GM-CSF transactivation by AML1b ranged from repressive to activating. Our results demonstrate a remarkable and unprecedented heterogeneity in A1E fusion transcripts in t(8;21) myeloblasts and suggest that synthesis of alternate A1E transcript and protein forms can significantly impact the regulation of AML1 responsive genes.
PMCID: PMC3763903  PMID: 18469864
t(8;21); AML1-ETO; acute myeloid leukemia; fusion transcripts
8.  In Vitro Transformation of Primary Human CD34+ Cells by AML Fusion Oncogenes: Early Gene Expression Profiling Reveals Possible Drug Target in AML 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12464.
Different fusion oncogenes in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) have distinct clinical and laboratory features suggesting different modes of malignant transformation. Here we compare the in vitro effects of representatives of 4 major groups of AML fusion oncogenes on primary human CD34+ cells. As expected from their clinical similarities, MLL-AF9 and NUP98-HOXA9 had very similar effects in vitro. They both caused erythroid hyperplasia and a clear block in erythroid and myeloid maturation. On the other hand, AML1-ETO and PML-RARA had only modest effects on myeloid and erythroid differentiation. All oncogenes except PML-RARA caused a dramatic increase in long-term proliferation and self-renewal. Gene expression profiling revealed two distinct temporal patterns of gene deregulation. Gene deregulation by MLL-AF9 and NUP98-HOXA9 peaked 3 days after transduction. In contrast, the vast majority of gene deregulation by AML1-ETO and PML-RARA occurred within 6 hours, followed by a dramatic drop in the numbers of deregulated genes. Interestingly, the p53 inhibitor MDM2 was upregulated by AML1-ETO at 6 hours. Nutlin-3, an inhibitor of the interaction between MDM2 and p53, specifically inhibited the proliferation and self-renewal of primary human CD34+ cells transduced with AML1-ETO, suggesting that MDM2 upregulation plays a role in cell transformation by AML1-ETO. These data show that differences among AML fusion oncogenes can be recapitulated in vitro using primary human CD34+ cells and that early gene expression profiling in these cells can reveal potential drug targets in AML.
PMCID: PMC2929205  PMID: 20805992
9.  Hypomethylation and expression of BEX2, IGSF4 and TIMP3 indicative of MLL translocations in Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:86.
Translocations of the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene occur in a subset (5%) of acute myeloid leukemias (AML), and in mixed phenotype acute leukemias in infancy - a disease with extremely poor prognosis. Animal model systems show that MLL gain of function mutations may contribute to leukemogenesis. Wild-type (wt) MLL possesses histone methyltransferase activity and functions at the level of chromatin organization by affecting the expression of specific target genes. While numerous MLL fusion proteins exert a diverse array of functions, they ultimately serve to induce transcription of specific genes. Hence, acute lymphoblastic leukemias (ALL) with MLL mutations (MLLmu) exhibit characteristic gene expression profiles including high-level expression of HOXA cluster genes. Here, we aimed to relate MLL mutational status and tumor suppressor gene (TSG) methylation/expression in acute leukemia cell lines.
Using MS-MLPA (methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification assay), methylation of 24 different TSG was analyzed in 28 MLLmu and MLLwt acute leukemia cell lines. On average, 1.8/24 TSG were methylated in MLLmu AML cells, while 6.2/24 TSG were methylated in MLLwt AML cells. Hypomethylation and expression of the TSG BEX2, IGSF4 and TIMP3 turned out to be characteristic of MLLmu AML cell lines. MLLwt AML cell lines displayed hypermethylated TSG promoters resulting in transcriptional silencing. Demethylating agents and inhibitors of histone deacetylases restored expression of BEX2, IGSF4 and TIMP3, confirming epigenetic silencing of these genes in MLLwt cells. The positive correlation between MLL translocation, TSG hypomethylation and expression suggested that MLL fusion proteins were responsible for dysregulation of TSG expression in MLLmu cells. This concept was supported by our observation that Bex2 mRNA levels in MLL-ENL transgenic mouse cell lines required expression of the MLL fusion gene.
These results suggest that the conspicuous expression of the TSG BEX2, IGSF4 and TIMP3 in MLLmu AML cell lines is the consequence of altered epigenetic properties of MLL fusion proteins.
PMCID: PMC2770485  PMID: 19835597
10.  Isoform-Specific Potentiation of Stem and Progenitor Cell Engraftment by AML1/RUNX1  
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e172.
AML1/RUNX1 is the most frequently mutated gene in leukaemia and is central to the normal biology of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. However, the role of different AML1 isoforms within these primitive compartments is unclear. Here we investigate whether altering relative expression of AML1 isoforms impacts the balance between cell self-renewal and differentiation in vitro and in vivo.
Methods and Findings
The human AML1a isoform encodes a truncated molecule with DNA-binding but no transactivation capacity. We used a retrovirus-based approach to transduce AML1a into primitive haematopoietic cells isolated from the mouse. We observed that enforced AML1a expression increased the competitive engraftment potential of murine long-term reconstituting stem cells with the proportion of AML1a-expressing cells increasing over time in both primary and secondary recipients. Furthermore, AML1a expression dramatically increased primitive and committed progenitor activity in engrafted animals as assessed by long-term culture, cobblestone formation, and colony assays. In contrast, expression of the full-length isoform AML1b abrogated engraftment potential. In vitro, AML1b promoted differentiation while AML1a promoted proliferation of progenitors capable of short-term lymphomyeloid engraftment. Consistent with these findings, the relative abundance of AML1a was highest in the primitive stem/progenitor compartment of human cord blood, and forced expression of AML1a in these cells enhanced maintenance of primitive potential both in vitro and in vivo.
These data demonstrate that the “a” isoform of AML1 has the capacity to potentiate stem and progenitor cell engraftment, both of which are required for successful clinical transplantation. This activity is consistent with its expression pattern in both normal and leukaemic cells. Manipulating the balance of AML1 isoform expression may offer novel therapeutic strategies, exploitable in the contexts of leukaemia and also in cord blood transplantation in adults, in whom stem and progenitor cell numbers are often limiting.
The truncated "a" isoform of AML1 is shown to have the capacity to potentiate stem and progenitor cell engraftment, both of which are required for successful clinical transplantation.
Editors' Summary
Blood contains red blood cells (which carry oxygen round the body), platelets (which help the blood to clot), and white blood cells (which fight off infections). All these cells, which are regularly replaced, are derived from hematopoietic stem cells, blood-forming cells present in the bone marrow. Like all stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells self-renew (reproduce themselves) and produce committed progenitor cells, which develop into mature blood cells in a process called hematopoiesis. Many proteins control hematopoiesis, some of which are called transcription factors; these factors bind to DNA through their DNA-binding domain and then control the expression of genes (that is, how DNA is turned into proteins) through particular parts of the protein (their transcription regulatory domains). An important hematopoietic transcription factor is AML1—a protein first identified because of its involvement in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML, a form of blood cancer). Mutations (changes) in the AML1 gene are now known to be present in other types of leukemia, which are often characterized by overproliferation of immature blood cells.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because of AML1′s crucial role in hematopoiesis, knowing more about which genes it regulates and how its activity is regulated could provide clues to treating leukemia and to improving hematopoietic cell transplantation. Many cancer treatments destroy hematopoietic stem cells, leaving patients vulnerable to infection. Transplants of bone marrow or cord blood (the cord that links mother and baby during pregnancy contains peripheral blood stem cells) can replace the missing cells, but cord blood in particular often contains insufficient stem cells for successful transplantation. It would be useful, therefore, to expand the stem cell content of these tissues before transplantation. In this study, the researchers investigated the effect of AML1 on self-renewal and differentiation of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in the laboratory (in vitro) and in animals (in vivo). In particular, they have asked how two isoforms (closely related versions) of AML1 affect the ability of these cells to grow and differentiate (engraft) in mice after transplantation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers artificially expressed AML1a and AML1b (both isoforms contain a DNA binding domain, but only AML1b has transcription regulatory domains) in mouse hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells and then tested the cells' ability to engraft in mice. AML1a-expressing cells engrafted better than unaltered cells and outgrew unaltered cells when transplanted as a mixture. AML1b-expressing cells, however, did not engraft. In vitro, AML1a-expressing cells grew more than AML1b-expressing cells, whereas differentiation was promoted in AML1b-expressing cells. To investigate whether the isoforms have the same effects in human cells, the researchers measured the amount of AML1a and AML1b mRNA (the template for protein production) made by progenitor cells in human cord blood. Although AML1b (together with AML1c, an isoform with similar characteristics) mRNA predominated in all the progenitor cell types, the relative abundance of AML1a was greatest in the stem and progenitor cells. Furthermore, forced expression of AML1a in these cells improved their ability to divide in vitro and to engraft in mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that AML1a expression increases the self-renewal capacity of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells and consequently improves their ability to engraft in mice, whereas AML1b expression encourages the differentiation of these cell types. These activities are consistent with the expression patterns of the two isoforms in normal hematopoietic cells and in leukemic cells—the mutated AML made by many leukemic cells resembles AML1a. Because the AML1 isoforms were expressed at higher than normal levels in these experiments, the physiological relevance of these findings needs to be confirmed by showing that normal levels of AML1a and AML1b produce similar results. Nevertheless, these results suggest that manipulating the balance of AML1 isoforms made by hematopoietic cells might be useful clinically. In leukemia, a shift toward AML1b expression might slow the proliferation of leukemic cells and encourage their differentiation. Conversely, in cord blood transplantation, a shift toward AML1a expression might improve patient outcomes by expanding the stem and progenitor cell populations.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has pages on hematopoiesis and hematopoietic stem cells (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US National Cancer Institute has a fact sheet on bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (in English and Spanish) and information for patients and professionals on leukemia (in English)
The American Society of Hematology provides patient information about blood diseases, including information on bone marrow and stem cell transplantation
PMCID: PMC1868041  PMID: 17503961
11.  Translocation Products in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Activate the Wnt Signaling Pathway in Hematopoietic Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(7):2890-2904.
The acute myeloid leukemia (AML)-associated translocation products AML1-ETO, PML-retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARα), and PLZF-RARα encode aberrant transcription factors. Several lines of evidence suggest similar pathogenetic mechanisms for these fusion proteins. We used high-density oligonucleotide arrays to identify shared target genes in inducibly transfected U937 cells expressing AML1-ETO, PML-RARα, or PLZF-RARα. All three fusion proteins significantly repressed the expression of 38 genes and induced the expression of 14 genes. Several of the regulated genes were associated with Wnt signaling. One of these, plakoglobin (γ-catenin), was induced on the mRNA and protein level by all three fusion proteins. In addition, primary AML blasts carrying one of the fusion proteins significantly overexpressed plakoglobin. The plakoglobin promoter was cloned and shown to be induced by AML1-ETO, with promoter activation depending on the corepressor and histone deacetylase binding domains. The induction of plakoglobin by AML fusion proteins led to downstream signaling and transactivation of TCF- and LEF-dependent promoters, including the c-myc promoter, which was found to be bound by plakoglobin in vivo after AML1-ETO expression. β-Catenin protein levels and TCF and LEF target genes such as c-myc and cyclin D1 were found to be induced by the fusion proteins. On the functional level, a dominant negative TCF inhibited colony growth of AML1-ETO-positive Kasumi cells, whereas plakoglobin transfection into myeloid 32D cells enhanced proliferation and clonal growth. Injection of plakoglobin-expressing 32D cells into syngeneic mice accelerated the development of leukemia. Transduction of plakoglobin into primitive murine hematopoietic progenitor cells preserved the immature phenotype during colony growth, suggesting enhanced self-renewal. These data provide evidence that activation of Wnt signaling is a common feature of several balanced translocations in AML.
PMCID: PMC371102  PMID: 15024077
12.  The leukemogenic t(8;21) fusion protein AML1-ETO controls ribosomal RNA genes and associates with nucleolar organizing regions at mitotic chromosomes 
Journal of cell science  2008;121(Pt 23):3981-3990.
RUNX1/AML1 is required for definitive hematopoiesis and is frequently targeted by chromosomal translocation in acute myeloid leukemias (AML). The t(8;21) related AML1-ETO fusion protein blocks differentiation of myeloid progenitors. Here, we show by immunofluorescence microscopy that during interphase, endogenous AML1-ETO localizes to nuclear microenvironments distinct from those containing native RUNX1/AML1 protein. At mitosis, we clearly detect binding of AML1-ETO to nucleolar organizing regions (NORs) in AML derived Kasumi-1 cells and binding of RUNX1/AML1 to NORs in Jurkat cells. Both RUNX1/AML1 and AML1-ETO occupy ribosomal DNA repeats during interphase, as well as interact with the endogenous RNA Pol I transcription factor UBF-1. Promoter cytosine methylation analysis indicates that RUNX1/AML1 binds to rDNA repeats that are more highly CpG methylated than those bound by AML1-ETO. Down-regulation by RNA interference reveals that RUNX1/AML1 negatively regulates rDNA transcription, while AML1-ETO is a positive regulator in Kasumi-1 cells. Taken together, our findings identify a novel role for the leukemia-related AML1-ETO protein in epigenetic control of cell growth through upregulation of RNA Pol I-mediated ribosomal gene transcription, consistent with the hyper-proliferative phenotype of myeloid cells in AML patients.
PMCID: PMC2904240  PMID: 19001502
acute myelogenous leukemia; Runx1; ribosomal DNA transcription; RNA polymerase I; UBF1; nucleolar organizing region
13.  The Polycomb complex PRC2 supports aberrant self-renewal in a mouse model of MLL-AF9;NrasG12D acute myeloid leukemia 
Oncogene  2012;32(7):930-938.
The Trithorax and Polycomb groups of chromatin regulators are critical for cell-lineage specification during normal development; functions that often become deregulated during tumorigenesis. As an example, oncogenic fusions of the Trithorax-related protein MLL can initiate aggressive leukemias by altering the transcriptional circuitry governing hematopoietic cell differentiation, a process that is known to require additional epigenetic pathways to implement. Here we used shRNA screening to identify chromatin regulators uniquely required in a mouse model of MLL-fusion acute myeloid leukemia, which revealed a role for the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) in maintenance of this disease. shRNA-mediated suppression of PRC2 subunits Eed, Suz12, or Ezh1/Ezh2 led to proliferation-arrest and differentiation of leukemia cells, with a minimal impact on growth of several non-transformed hematopoietic cell lines. The requirement for PRC2 in leukemia is partly due to its role in direct transcriptional repression of genes that limit the self-renewal potential of hematopoietic cells, including Cdkn2a. In addition to implicating a role for PRC2 in the pathogenesis of MLL-fusion leukemia, our results suggest, more generally, that Trithorax and Polycomb group proteins can cooperate with one another to maintain aberrant lineage programs in cancer.
PMCID: PMC4102143  PMID: 22469984
chromatin; leukemia; epigenetics; MLL; PRC2
14.  Initiation of MLL-rearranged AML is dependent on C/EBPα 
C/EBPα collaborates with MLL-ENL to activate a group of genes that, together with Hoxa9 and Meis1, are responsible for the early events that transforms normal hematopoietic cells into leukemic cells
MLL-fusion proteins are potent inducers of oncogenic transformation, and their expression is considered to be the main oncogenic driving force in ∼10% of human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. These oncogenic fusion proteins are responsible for the initiation of a downstream transcriptional program leading to the expression of factors such as MEIS1 and HOXA9, which in turn can replace MLL-fusion proteins in overexpression experiments. To what extent MLL fusion proteins act on their own during tumor initiation, or if they collaborate with other transcriptional regulators, is unclear. Here, we have compared gene expression profiles from human MLL-rearranged AML to normal progenitors and identified the myeloid tumor suppressor C/EBPα as a putative collaborator in MLL-rearranged AML. Interestingly, we find that deletion of Cebpa rendered murine hematopoietic progenitors completely resistant to MLL-ENL–induced leukemic transformation, whereas C/EBPα was dispensable in already established AMLs. Furthermore, we show that Cebpa-deficient granulocytic-monocytic progenitors were equally resistant to transformation and that C/EBPα collaborates with MLL-ENL in the induction of a transcriptional program, which is also apparent in human AML. Thus, our studies demonstrate a key role of C/EBPα in MLL fusion–driven transformation and find that it sharply demarcates tumor initiation and maintenance.
PMCID: PMC3892979  PMID: 24367003
15.  Haematopoietic malignancies caused by dysregulation of a chromatin-binding PHD finger 
Nature  2009;459(7248):847-851.
Histone H3 Lys4 methylation (H3K4me) was proposed as a critical component in regulating the gene expression, epigenetic states, and cellular identities1. The biological meaning of H3K4me is interpreted via conserved modules including plant homeodomain (PHD) fingers that recognize varied H3K4me states1,2. The dysregulation of PHD finger has been implicated in a variety of human diseases including cancers and immune or neurological disorders3. Here we report that fusing an H3K4-trimethylation (H3K4me3)-binding PHD finger, such as the C-terminal PHD finger of JARID1A or PHF23 (JARID1APHD3, PHF23PHD), to a common fusion partner nucleoporin-98 (NUP98) as identified in human leukemias4,5, generated potent oncoproteins that arrested hematopoietic differentiation and induced acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In these processes, a PHD finger that specifically recognizes H3K4me3/2 marks was essential for leukemogenesis. Mutations in PHD fingers that abrogated H3K4me3-binding also abolished leukemic transformation. NUP98-PHD fusion prevented the differentiation-associated removal of H3K4me3 at many loci encoding lineage-specific transcription factors (Hox(s), Gata3, Meis1, Eya1, Pbx1), and enforced their active gene transcription. Mechanistically, NUP98-PHD fusions act as ‘chromatin boundary factors’, dominating over polycomb-mediated gene silencing to ‘lock’ developmentally crucial loci into an active chromatin state (H3K4me3 with induced histone acetylation), a state that defined leukemia stem cells. Collectively, our studies represent the first report wherein the deregulation of PHD finger, ‘effector’ of specific histone modification, perturbs the epigenetic dynamics on developmentally critical loci, catastrophizes cellular fate decision-making, and even causes oncogenesis during development.
PMCID: PMC2697266  PMID: 19430464
16.  C/EBPα Dysregulation in AML and ALL 
Critical reviews in oncogenesis  2011;16(1-2):93-102.
The transcription factor CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein α (C/EBPα) is a critical regulator of myeloid development, directing granulocyte and monocyte differentiation. As such, it is dysregulated in over half of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). C/EBPα expression is suppressed as result of common leukemia-associated genetic and epigenetic alterations such as AML1-ETO, BCR-ABL, FLT3-ITD, or CEBPA promoter methylation. In addition, 10–15% of patients with AML with intermediate risk cytogenetics are characterized by mutations of the CEBPA gene. Two classes of mutations are described. N-terminal changes result in expression of a truncated dominant negative C/EBPαp30 isoform. C-terminal mutations are in-frame insertions or deletions resulting in alteration of the leucine zipper preventing dimerization and DNA binding. Often, patients carry both N- and C-terminal mutations each affecting a different allele, and a mouse model recapitulates the human phenotype. Patients with mutated CEBPA AML comprise a clinically distinct group with favorable outcome consistently seen in patients with biallelic mutations. In addition, C/EBP family members are aberrantly expressing from the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus in 2% of pre-B ALLs. This review summarizes the normal hematopoietic developmental pathways regulated by C/EBPα and discusses the molecular pathways involved in mutated CEBPA AML and ALL.
PMCID: PMC3243939  PMID: 22150310
leukemia; myeloid; differentiation; hematopoiesis
17.  Cell Type Dependent Regulation of Multidrug Resistance-1 Gene Expression by AML1-ETO 
Blood cells, molecules & diseases  2007;39(3):297-306.
The AML1-ETO fusion protein is generated from the 8;21 chromosome translocation that is commonly identified in acute myeloid leukemia. AML1-ETO is a DNA binding transcription factor and has been demonstrated to play a critical role in promoting leukemogenesis. Therefore, it is important to define the molecular mechanism of AML1-ETO in the regulation of gene expression. Here, we report that the effect of AML1-ETO on the promoter of multidrug resistance-1 (MDR1) gene, a known AML1-ETO target, is highly cell type specific. Besides observing repression of the MDR1 promoter in C33A and CV-1 cells as reported previously, AML1-ETO strongly activated the promoter in K562 and B210 cells. More importantly, this activation required both the AML1 and ETO portions of the fusion protein, but did not depend on the AML1 binding site in MDR1 promoter. Furthermore, results from promoter deletion analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays suggested that this activation effect was likely through the influence of the general transcription machinery rather than promoter-specific factors. Based on these data, we propose that AML1-ETO may have opposing effects on gene expression depending on the various conditions of the cellular environment.
PMCID: PMC2048671  PMID: 17590361
18.  Deacetylase inhibitors modulate proliferation and self-renewal properties of leukemic stem and progenitor cells 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(17):3219-3226.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a highly malignant disease that is not curable in the majority of patients. Numerous non-random genetic abnormalities are known, among which several translocations such as PLZF/RARα or AML1/ETO are known to aberrantly recruit histone deacetylases. Deacetylase inhibitors (DACi) are promising drugs leading to growth inhibition, cell cycle arrest, premature senescence and apoptosis in malignant cells. It is believed that DACi may have clinical efficacy by eradicating the most primitive population of leukemic stem and progenitor cells, possibly by interfering with self-renewal.
The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of DACi on leukemic stem and progenitor cells using murine transduction-transplantation models of hematopoietic cells harboring the leukemia-associated fusion proteins (LAFP) PLZF/RARα or a truncated AML1/ETO protein (AML1/ETO exon 9). We show that the self-renewal and short-term repopulation capacity of AML1/ETO- or PLZF/RARα-expressing Sca1+/lin- stem and progenitor cells are profoundly inhibited by clinically applicable concentrations of the DACi dacinostat and vorinostat. To further investigate the mechanisms underlying these effects, we examined the impact of DACi on the transcription factor c-MYC and the Polycomb group protein BMI1, which are induced by LAFP and involved in leukemic transformation. In AML1/ETO or PLZF/RARα-positive 32D cells, DACi-mediated antiproliferative effects were associated with downregulation of BMI1 and c-MYC protein levels. Similar effects were demonstrated in primary samples of cytogenetically defined high-risk AML patients. In conclusion, DACi may be effective as maintenance therapy by negatively interfering with signaling pathways that control survival and proliferation of leukemic stem and progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC3466521  PMID: 22895185
acute myeloid leukemia; leukemic stem cells; deacetylase inhibitor; BMI1; self-renewal; short-term repopulation; dacinostat; vorinostat
19.  The t(8;21) Fusion Product, AML-1–ETO, Associates with C/EBP-α, Inhibits C/EBP-α-Dependent Transcription, and Blocks Granulocytic Differentiation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(1):322-333.
AML-1B is a hematopoietic transcription factor that is functionally inactivated by multiple chromosomal translocations in human acute myeloblastic and B-cell lymphocytic leukemias. The t(8;21)(q22;q22) translocation replaces the C terminus, including the transactivation domain of AML-1B, with ETO, a nuclear protein of unknown function. We previously showed that AML-1–ETO is a dominant inhibitor of AML-1B-dependent transcriptional activation. Here we demonstrate that AML-1–ETO also inhibits C/EBP-α-dependent activation of the myeloid cell-specific, rat defensin NP-3 promoter. AML-1B bound the core enhancer motifs present in the NP-3 promoter and activated transcription approximately sixfold. Similarly, C/EBP-α bound NP-3 promoter sequences and activated transcription approximately sixfold. Coexpression of C/EBP-α with AML-1B or its family members, AML-2 and murine AML-3, synergistically activated the NP-3 promoter up to 60-fold. The t(8;21) product, AML-1–ETO, repressed AML-1B-dependent activation of NP-3 and completely inhibited C/EBP-α-dependent activity as well as the synergistic activation. In contrast, the inv(16) product, which indirectly targets AML family members by fusing their heterodimeric DNA binding partner, CBF-β, to the myosin heavy chain, inhibited AML-1B but not C/EBP-α activation or the synergistic activation. AML-1–ETO and C/EBP-α were coimmunoprecipitated and thus physically interact in vivo. Deletion mutants demonstrated that the C terminus of ETO was required for AML-1–ETO-mediated repression of the synergistic activation but not for association with C/EBP-α. Finally, overexpression of AML-1–ETO in myeloid progenitor cells prevented granulocyte colony-stimulating factor-induced differentiation. Thus, AML-1–ETO may contribute to leukemogenesis by specifically inhibiting C/EBP-α- and AML-1B-dependent activation of myeloid promoters and blocking differentiation.
PMCID: PMC121499  PMID: 9418879
20.  Both SEPT2 and MLL are down-regulated in MLL-SEPT2 therapy-related myeloid neoplasia 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:147.
A relevant role of septins in leukemogenesis has been uncovered by their involvement as fusion partners in MLL-related leukemia. Recently, we have established the MLL-SEPT2 gene fusion as the molecular abnormality subjacent to the translocation t(2;11)(q37;q23) in therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia. In this work we quantified MLL and SEPT2 gene expression in 58 acute myeloid leukemia patients selected to represent the major AML genetic subgroups, as well as in all three cases of MLL-SEPT2-associated myeloid neoplasms so far described in the literature.
Cytogenetics, fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and molecular studies (RT-PCR, qRT-PCR and qMSP) were used to characterize 58 acute myeloid leukemia patients (AML) at diagnosis selected to represent the major AML genetic subgroups: CBFB-MYH11 (n = 13), PML-RARA (n = 12); RUNX1-RUNX1T1 (n = 12), normal karyotype (n = 11), and MLL gene fusions other than MLL-SEPT2 (n = 10). We also studied all three MLL-SEPT2 myeloid neoplasia cases reported in the literature, namely two AML patients and a t-MDS patient.
When compared with normal controls, we found a 12.8-fold reduction of wild-type SEPT2 and MLL-SEPT2 combined expression in cases with the MLL-SEPT2 gene fusion (p = 0.007), which is accompanied by a 12.4-fold down-regulation of wild-type MLL and MLL-SEPT2 combined expression (p = 0.028). The down-regulation of SEPT2 in MLL-SEPT2 myeloid neoplasias was statistically significant when compared with all other leukemia genetic subgroups (including those with other MLL gene fusions). In addition, MLL expression was also down-regulated in the group of MLL fusions other than MLL-SEPT2, when compared with the normal control group (p = 0.023)
We found a significant down-regulation of both SEPT2 and MLL in MLL-SEPT2 myeloid neoplasias. In addition, we also found that MLL is under-expressed in AML patients with MLL fusions other than MLL-SEPT2.
PMCID: PMC2689242  PMID: 19445675
21.  The leukemia associated nuclear corepressor ETO homologue genes MTG16 and MTGR1 are regulated differently in hematopoietic cells 
BMC Molecular Biology  2012;13:11.
MTG16, MTGR1 and ETO are nuclear transcriptional corepressors of the human ETO protein family. MTG16 is implicated in hematopoietic development and in controlling erythropoiesis/megakaryopoiesis. Furthermore, ETO homologue genes are 3'participants in leukemia fusions generated by chromosomal translocations responsible of hematopoietic dysregulation. We tried to identify structural and functional promoter elements of MTG16 and MTGR1 genes in order to find associations between their regulation and hematopoiesis.
5' deletion examinations and luciferase reporter gene studies indicated that a 492 bp sequence upstream of the transcription start site is essential for transcriptional activity by the MTG16 promoter. The TATA- and CCAAT-less promoter with a GC box close to the start site showed strong reporter activity when examined in erythroid/megakaryocytic cells. Mutation of an evolutionary conserved GATA -301 consensus binding site repressed promoter function. Furthermore, results from in vitro antibody-enhanced electrophoretic mobility shift assay and in vivo chromatin immunoprecipitation indicated binding of GATA-1 to the GATA -301 site. A role of GATA-1 was also supported by transfection of small interfering RNA, which diminished MTG16 expression. Furthermore, expression of the transcription factor HERP2, which represses GATA-1, produced strong inhibition of the MTG16 promoter reporter consistent with a role of GATA-1 in transcriptional activation. The TATA-less and CCAAT-less MTGR1 promoter retained most of the transcriptional activity within a -308 to -207 bp region with a GC-box-rich sequence containing multiple SP1 binding sites reminiscent of a housekeeping gene with constitutive expression. However, mutations of individual SP1 binding sites did not repress promoter function; multiple active SP1 binding sites may be required to safeguard constitutive MTGR1 transcriptional activity. The observed repression of MTG16/MTGR1 promoters by the leukemia associated AML1-ETO fusion gene may have a role in hematopoietic dysfunction of leukemia.
An evolutionary conserved GATA binding site is critical in transcriptional regulation of the MTG16 promoter. In contrast, the MTGR1 gene depends on a GC-box-rich sequence for transcriptional regulation and possible ubiquitous expression. Our results demonstrate that the ETO homologue promoters are regulated differently consistent with hematopoietic cell-type- specific expression and function.
PMCID: PMC3364894  PMID: 22443175
22.  Characterisation of Genome-Wide PLZF/RARA Target Genes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24176.
The PLZF/RARA fusion protein generated by the t(11;17)(q23;q21) translocation in acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL) is believed to act as an oncogenic transcriptional regulator recruiting epigenetic factors to genes important for its transforming potential. However, molecular mechanisms associated with PLZF/RARA-dependent leukaemogenesis still remain unclear.
We searched for specific PLZF/RARA target genes by ChIP-on-chip in the haematopoietic cell line U937 conditionally expressing PLZF/RARA. By comparing bound regions found in U937 cells expressing endogenous PLZF with PLZF/RARA-induced U937 cells, we isolated specific PLZF/RARA target gene promoters. We next analysed gene expression profiles of our identified target genes in PLZF/RARA APL patients and analysed DNA sequences and epigenetic modification at PLZF/RARA binding sites. We identify 413 specific PLZF/RARA target genes including a number encoding transcription factors involved in the regulation of haematopoiesis. Among these genes, 22 were significantly down regulated in primary PLZF/RARA APL cells. In addition, repressed PLZF/RARA target genes were associated with increased levels of H3K27me3 and decreased levels of H3K9K14ac. Finally, sequence analysis of PLZF/RARA bound sequences reveals the presence of both consensus and degenerated RAREs as well as enrichment for tissue-specific transcription factor motifs, highlighting the complexity of targeting fusion protein to chromatin. Our study suggests that PLZF/RARA directly targets genes important for haematopoietic development and supports the notion that PLZF/RARA acts mainly as an epigenetic regulator of its direct target genes.
PMCID: PMC3176768  PMID: 21949697
23.  DNMT3A Mutations in Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in South Brazil 
Advances in Hematology  2012;2012:697691.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a complex and heterogeneous hematopoietic tissue neoplasm. Several molecular markers have been described that help to classify AML patients into risk groups. DNA methyltransferase 3A (DNMT3A) gene mutations have been recently identified in about 22% of AML patients and associated with poor prognosis as an independent risk factor. Our aims were to determine the frequency of somatic mutations in the gene DNMT3A and major chromosomal translocations in a sample of patients with AML. We investigated in 82 samples of bone marrow from patients with AML for somatic mutations in DNMT3A gene by sequencing and sought major fusion transcripts by RT-PCR. We found mutations in the DNMT3A gene in 6 patients (8%); 3 were type R882H. We found fusion transcripts in 19 patients, namely, AML1/ETO (n = 5; 6.1%), PML/RARα (n = 12; 14.6%), MLL/AF9 (0; 0%), and CBFβ/MYH11 (n = 2; 2.4%). The identification of recurrent mutations in the DNMT3A gene and their possible prognostic implications can be a valuable tool for making treatment decisions. This is the first study on the presence of somatic mutations of the DNMT3A gene in patients with AML in Brazil. The frequency of these mutations suggests a possible ethnogeographic variation.
PMCID: PMC3502761  PMID: 23193409
24.  Misguided Transcriptional Elongation Causes Mixed Lineage Leukemia 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(11):e1000249.
Investigation of the activity of a family of fusion proteins that cause aggressive leukemia suggests transcriptional elongation as a new mechanism for oncogenic transformation.
Fusion proteins composed of the histone methyltransferase mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) and a variety of unrelated fusion partners are highly leukemogenic. Despite their prevalence, particularly in pediatric acute leukemia, many molecular details of their transforming mechanism are unknown. Here, we provide mechanistic insight into the function of MLL fusions, demonstrating that they capture a transcriptional elongation complex that has been previously found associated with the eleven-nineteen leukemia protein (ENL). We show that this complex consists of a tight core stabilized by recursive protein–protein interactions. This central part integrates histone H3 lysine 79 methylation, RNA Polymerase II (RNA Pol II) phosphorylation, and MLL fusion partners to stimulate transcriptional elongation as evidenced by RNA tethering assays. Coimmunoprecipitations indicated that MLL fusions are incorporated into this complex, causing a constitutive recruitment of elongation activity to MLL target loci. Chromatin immunoprecipitations (ChIP) of the homeobox gene A cluster confirmed a close relationship between binding of MLL fusions and transcript levels. A time-resolved ChIP utilizing a conditional MLL fusion singled out H3K79 methylation as the primary parameter correlated with target expression. The presence of MLL fusion proteins also kept RNA Pol II in an actively elongating state and prevented accumulation of inhibitory histone methylation on target chromatin. Hox loci remained open and productive in the presence of MLL fusion activity even under conditions of forced differentiation. Finally, MLL-transformed cells were particularly sensitive to pharmacological inhibition of RNA Pol II phosphorylation, pointing to a potential treatment for MLL. In summary, we show aberrant transcriptional elongation as a novel mechanism for oncogenic transformation.
Author Summary
The expression level of a gene needs to be precisely adjusted to ensure proper function. Adjustments can be imposed at different stages during the overall process of gene expression, including transcription initiation, transcript elongation, and transcript processing. If control of one of these mechanisms fails, aberrant gene expression can occur, which may have severe consequences such as cellular transformation and the development of cancer. Here, we show that a class of aberrant fusion proteins that are causal in mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) hijacks a transcriptional elongation complex. We analyze the architecture of this transcriptional elongation complex and demonstrate that the complex is targeted by MLL fusion proteins to genes that should normally be silenced to allow maturation of hematopoietic cells. We show that this mistargeting causes constitutive expression of the respective genes, which likely leads to inhibition of blood cell differentiation at a precursor cell stage in which the cells are highly proliferative. Such abnormal precursor cells have been shown previously to be resistant to normal differentiation signals and to form the leukemia-initiating population. We further show here that cells carrying MLL fusion proteins are more sensitive to chemical inhibition of transcriptional elongation than leukemic cells of different etiology. Our results propose transcriptional elongation as a new oncogenic mechanism and point to a potential specific therapy for this hard-to-cure leukemia.
PMCID: PMC2774266  PMID: 19956800
25.  Establishment of epigenetic patterns in development 
Chromosoma  2012;121(3):251-262.
The distinct cell types of the body are established from the fertilized egg in development and assembled into functional tissues. Functional characteristics and gene expression patterns are then faithfully maintained in somatic cell lineages over a lifetime. On the molecular level, transcription factors initiate lineage-specific gene expression programmmes and epigenetic regulation contributes to stabilization of expression patterns. Epigenetic mechanisms are essential for maintaining stable cell identities and their disruption can lead to disease or cellular transformation. Here, we discuss the role of epigenetic regulation in the early mouse embryo, which presents a relatively well-understood system. A number of studies have contributed to the understanding of the function of Polycomb group complexes and the DNA methylation system. The role of many other chromatin regulators in development remains largely unexplored. Albeit the current picture remains incomplete, the view emerges that multiple epigenetic mechanisms cooperate for repressing critical developmental regulators. Some chromatin modifications appear to act in parallel and others might repress the same gene at a different stage of cell differentiation. Studies in pluripotent mouse embryonic stem cells show that epigenetic mechanisms function to repress lineage specific gene expression and prevent extraembryonic differentiation. Insights into this epigenetic “memory” of the first lineage decisions help to provide a better understanding of the function of epigenetic regulation in adult stem cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3350763  PMID: 22427185

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