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.
acute myeloid leukemia; RUNX1/ETO; epigenetic regulation; chromatin; integrated analysis of high-throughput data
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.
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.
The leukemic fusion protein AML1-ETO occurs frequently in human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and has received much attention over the past decade. An initial model for its pathogenetic effects emphasized the conversion of a hematopoietic transcriptional activator, RUNX1 (or AML1), into a leukemogenic repressor which blocked myeloid differentiation at the level of target gene regulation. This view has been absorbed into a larger picture of AML1-ETO pathogenesis, encompassing dysregulation of hematopoietic stem cell homeostasis at several mechanistic levels. Recent reports have highlighted a multifaceted capacity of AML1-ETO directly to inhibit key hematopoietic transcription factors that function as tumor suppressors at several nodal points during hematopoietic differentiation. A new model is presented in which AML1-ETO coordinates expansion of the stem cell compartment with diminished lineage commitment and with genome instability.
The acute myeloid leukemia 1 (AML1, RUNX1) transcription factor is a key regulator of hematopoietic differentiation that forms multi-protein complexes with co-regulatory proteins. These complexes are assembled at target gene promoters in nuclear microenvironments to mediate phenotypic gene expression and chromatin related epigenetic modifications. Here, immunofluorescence microscopy and biochemical assays are used to show that RUNX1 associates with the human ATP-dependent SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex. The SWI/SNF subunits BRG1 and INI1 bind in vivo to RUNX1 target gene promoters (e.g., GMCSF, IL3, MCSF-R, MIP and p21). These interactions correlate with histone modifications characteristic of active chromatin, including acetylated H4 and dimethylated H3 Lysine 4. Down-regulation of RUNX1 by RNA interference diminishes the binding of BRG1 and INI1 at selected target genes. Taken together, our findings indicate that RUNX1 interacts with the human SWI/SNF complex to control hematopoietic-specific gene expression.
leukemia; BRG1; INI1; AML1; chromatin remodeling; histone modification
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.
In plants, as in mammals, mutations in SNF2-like DNA helicases/ATPases were shown to affect not only chromatin structure but also global methylation patterns, suggesting a potential functional link between chromatin structure and epigenetic marks. The SNF2-like ATPase containing nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase corepressor complex (NuRD) is involved in gene transcriptional repression and chromatin remodeling. We have previously shown that the leukemogenic protein PML-RARa represses target genes through recruitment of DNA methytransferases and Polycomb complex. Here, we demonstrate a direct role of the NuRD complex in aberrant gene repression and transmission of epigenetic repressive marks in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). We show that PML-RARa binds and recruits NuRD to target genes, including to the tumor-suppressor gene RARβ2. In turn, the NuRD complex facilitates Polycomb binding and histone methylation at lysine 27. Retinoic acid treatment, which is often used for patients at the early phase of the disease, reduced the promoter occupancy of the NuRD complex. Knockdown of the NuRD complex in leukemic cells not only prevented histone deacetylation and chromatin compaction but also impaired DNA and histone methylation, as well as stable silencing, thus favoring cellular differentiation. These results unveil an important role for NuRD in the establishment of altered epigenetic marks in APL, demonstrating an essential link between chromatin structure and epigenetics in leukemogenesis that could be exploited for therapeutic intervention.
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.
DNA methylation and histone modifications have essential roles in remodeling chromatin structure of genes necessary for multi-lineage differentiation of mammary stem/progenitor cells. The role of this well-defined epigenetic programming is to heritably maintain transcriptional plasticity of these loci over multiple cell divisions in the differentiated progeny. Epigenetic events can be deregulated in progenitor cells chronically exposed to xenoestrogen or inflammatory microenvironment. In addition, epigenetically mediated silencing of genes associated with tumor suppression can take place, resulting in clonal proliferation of undifferentiated or semidifferentiated cells. Alternatively, microRNAs that negatively regulate the expression of their protein-coding targets may become epigenetically repressed, leading to oncogenic expression of these genes. Here we further discuss interactions between DNA methylation and histone modifications that have significant contributions to the differentiation of mammary stem/progenitor cells and to tumor initiation and progression.
Mammary gland stem cells and their progeny display characteristic DNA methylation and histone modification patterns. Carcinogens and inflammation can disrupt such epigenetic programs, leading to tumorigenesis.
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.
acute myeloid leukemia; leukemic stem cells; deacetylase inhibitor; BMI1; self-renewal; short-term repopulation; dacinostat; vorinostat
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.
Acute myelogenous leukemias (AMLs) are genetically heterogeneous and characterized by chromosomal rearrangements that produce fusion proteins with aberrant transcriptional regulatory activities. Expression of AML fusion proteins in transgenic mice increases the risk of myeloid leukemias, suggesting that they induce a preleukemic state. The underlying molecular and biological mechanisms are, however, unknown. To address this issue, we performed a systematic analysis of fusion protein transcriptional targets. We expressed AML1/ETO, PML/RAR, and PLZF/RAR in U937 hemopoietic precursor cells and measured global gene expression using oligonucleotide chips. We identified 1,555 genes regulated concordantly by at least two fusion proteins that were further validated in patient samples and finally classified according to available functional information. Strikingly, we found that AML fusion proteins induce genes involved in the maintenance of the stem cell phenotype and repress DNA repair genes, mainly of the base excision repair pathway. Functional studies confirmed that ectopic expression of fusion proteins constitutively activates pathways leading to increased stem cell renewal (e.g., the Jagged1/Notch pathway) and provokes accumulation of DNA damage. We propose that expansion of the stem cell compartment and induction of a mutator phenotype are relevant features underlying the leukemic potential of AML-associated fusion proteins.
Nearly 40% of cases of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) of the M2 subtype are due to a chromosomal translocation that combines a sequence-specific DNA binding protein, AML1, with a potent transcriptional repressor, ETO. ETO interacts with nuclear receptor corepressors SMRT and N-CoR, which recruit histone deacetylase to the AML1-ETO oncoprotein. SMRT–N-CoR interaction requires each of two zinc fingers contained in C-terminal Nervy homology region 4 (NHR4) of ETO. However, here we show that polypeptides containing NHR4 are insufficient for interaction with SMRT. NHR2 is also required for SMRT interaction and repression by ETO, as well as for inhibition of hematopoietic differentiation by AML1-ETO. NHR2 mediates oligomerization of ETO as well as AML1-ETO. Fusion of NHR4 polypeptide to a heterologous dimerization domain allows strong interaction with SMRT in vitro. These data support a model in which NHR2 and NHR4 have complementary functions in repression by ETO. NHR2 functions as an oligomerization domain bringing together NHR4 polypeptides that together form the surface required for high-affinity interaction with corepressors. As nuclear receptors also interact with corepressors as dimers, oligomerization may be a common mechanism regulating corepressor interactions.
Chromosomal translocations can lead to the formation of chimeric genes encoding fusion proteins such as PML/RARα, PLZF/RARα, and AML-1/ETO, which are able to induce and maintain acute myeloid leukemia (AML). One key mechanism in leukemogenesis is increased self renewal of leukemic stem cells via aberrant activation of the Wnt signaling pathway. Either X-RAR, PML/RARα and PLZF/RARα or AML-1/ETO activate Wnt signaling by upregulating γ-catenin and β-catenin. In a prospective study, a lower risk of leukemia was observed with aspirin use, which is consistent with numerous studies reporting an inverse association of aspirin with other cancers. Furthermore, a reduction in leukemia risk was associated with use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), where the effects on AML risk was FAB subtype-specific. To better investigate whether NSAID treatment is effective, we used Sulindac Sulfide in X-RARα-positive progenitor cell models. Sulindac Sulfide (SSi) is a derivative of Sulindac, a NSAID known to inactivate Wnt signaling. We found that SSi downregulated both β-catenin and γ-catenin in X-RARα-expressing cells and reversed the leukemic phenotype by reducing stem cell capacity and increasing differentiation potential in X-RARα-positive HSCs. The data presented herein show that SSi inhibits the leukemic cell growth as well as hematopoietic progenitors cells (HPCs) expressing PML/RARα, and it indicates that Sulindac is a valid molecular therapeutic approach that should be further validated using in vivo leukemia models and in clinical settings.
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.
Epigenetic pathways can regulate gene expression by controlling and interpreting chromatin modifications. Cancer cells are characterized by altered epigenetic landscapes, and commonly exploit the chromatin regulatory machinery to enforce oncogenic gene expression programs1. Although chromatin alterations are, in principle, reversible and often amenable to drug intervention, the promise of targeting such pathways therapeutically has been limited by an incomplete understanding of cancer-specific dependencies on epigenetic regulators. Here we describe a non-biased approach to probe epigenetic vulnerabilities in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), an aggressive haematopoietic malignancy that is often associated with aberrant chromatin states2. By screening a custom library of small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) targeting known chromatin regulators in a genetically defined AML mouse model, we identify the protein bromodomain-containing 4 (Brd4) as being critically required for disease maintenance. Suppression of Brd4 using shRNAs or the small-molecule inhibitor JQ1 led to robust antileukaemic effects in vitro and in vivo, accompanied by terminal myeloid differentiation and elimination of leukaemia stem cells. Similar sensitivities were observed in a variety of human AML cell lines and primary patient samples, revealing that JQ1 has broad activity in diverse AML subtypes. The effects of Brd4 suppression are, at least in part, due to its role in sustaining Myc expression to promote aberrant self-renewal, which implicates JQ1 as a pharmacological means to suppress MYC in cancer. Our results establish small-molecule inhibition of Brd4 as a promising therapeutic strategy in AML and, potentially, other cancers, and highlight the utility of RNA interference (RNAi) screening for revealing epigenetic vulnerabilities that can be exploited for direct pharmacological intervention.
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.
Hormones are essential regulators of many behaviors. Steroids bind either to nuclear or membrane receptors while peptides primarily act via membrane receptors. After a ligand binds, the conformational change in the receptor initiates changes in cell signaling cascades (membrane receptors) or direct alternations in DNA transcription (steroid receptors). Changes in gene transcription that result are responsible for protein production and ultimately behavioral modifications. A significant part of how hormones affect DNA transcription is via epigenetic modifications of DNA and/or the chromatin in which it is entwined. These alterations lead to transcriptional changes that ultimately define the phenotype and function of a given cell. Importantly we now know that environmental stimuli influence epigenetic marks, which in the context of neuroendocrinology can lead to behavioral changes. Importantly tracking epigenetic states and profiling the epigenome within cells requires the use of epigenetic methodologies and subsequent data analysis. Here we describe the techniques of particular importance in the mapping of DNA methylation, histone modifications and occupancy of chromatin bound effector proteins that regulate gene expression. For researchers wanting to move into these levels of analysis we discuss the application of modern sequencing technologies applied in assays such as chromatin immunoprecipitation and the bioinformatics analysis involved in the rich datasets generated.
Epigenetics; epigenomics; bioinformatics; DNA methylation; bisulfite sequencing; chromatin Immunoprecipitation; ChIP-sequencing
The chromosomal translocations found in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) generate oncogenic fusion transcription factors with aberrant transcriptional regulatory properties. Although therapeutic targeting of most leukemia fusion proteins remains elusive, the posttranslational modifications that control their function could be targetable. We found that AML1-ETO, the fusion protein generated by the t(8;21) translocation, is acetylated by the transcriptional coactivator p300 in leukemia cells isolated from t(8;21) AML patients, and that this acetylation is essential for its self-renewal–promoting effects in human cord blood CD34+ cells and its leukemogenicity in mouse models. Inhibition of p300 abrogates the acetylation of AML1-ETO and impairs its ability to promote leukemic transformation. Thus, lysine acetyltransferases represent a potential therapeutic target in AML.
RUNX1 is a transcription factor that regulates critical processes in many aspects of hematopoiesis. RUNX1 is also integral in defining the definitive hematopoietic stem cell. In addition, many hematological diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome and myeloproliferative neoplasms have been associated with mutations in RUNX1. Located on chromosomal 21, the RUNX1 gene is involved in many forms of chromosomal translocations in leukemia. t(8;21) is one of the most common chromosomal translocations found in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), where it results in a fusion protein between RUNX1 and ETO. The RUNX1-ETO fusion protein is found in approximately 12% of all AML patients. In this review, we detail the structural features, functions, and models used to study both RUNX1 and RUNX1-ETO in hematopoiesis over the past two decades.
RUNX1; AML1; CBFA2; RUNX1-ETO; AML1-ETO; RUNX1-RUNX1T1; Hematopoiesis; Hematopoietic Stem Cells; Leukemia; AML; Leukemogenesis; Mouse Models; Review
Post-translational modifications of histones are critical not only for local regulation of gene expression, but also for higher-order structure of the chromosome and genome organization in general. These modifications enable a preset state to be maintained over subsequent generations and thus provide an epigenetic level of regulation. Heterochromatic regions of the genome are epigenetically regulated to maintain a “silent state” and protein coding genes inserted into these regions are subject to the same epigenetic silencing. The fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe has well characterized regions of heterochromatin and has proven to be a powerful model for elucidation of epigenetic silencing mechanisms. Research in S. pombe led to the breakthrough discovery that epigenetic silencing is not solely a chromatin-driven transcriptional repression and that RNA interference of nascent transcripts can guide epigenetic silencing and associated histone modifications. Over the last 10 years, an eloquent integration of genetic and biochemical studies have greatly propelled our understanding of major players and effector complexes for regulation of RNAi-mediated epigenetic silencing in S. pombe. Here, we review recent research related to regulation of the epigenetic state in S. pombe heterochromatin, focusing specifically on the mechanisms by which transcription and RNA processing interact with the chromatin modification machinery to maintain the epigenetically silent state.
epigenetic silencing; fission yeast; heterochromatin; histone methyltransferase; RNA interference
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.
Nuclear receptor corepressor (CoR)-histone deacetylase (HDAC) complex recruitment is indispensable for the biological activities of the retinoic acid receptor fusion proteins of acute promyelocytic leukemias. We report here that ETO (eight-twenty-one or MTG8), which is fused to the acute myelogenous leukemia 1 (AML1) transcription factor in t(8;21) AML, interacts via its zinc finger region with a conserved domain of the corepressors N-CoR and SMRT and recruits HDAC in vivo. The fusion protein AML1-ETO retains the ability of ETO to form stable complexes with N-CoR/SMRT and HDAC. Deletion of the ETO C terminus abolishes CoR binding and HDAC recruitment and severely impairs the ability of AML1-ETO to inhibit differentiation of hematopoietic precursors. These data indicate that formation of a stable complex with CoR–HDAC is crucial to the activation of the leukemogenic potential of AML1 by ETO and suggest that aberrant recruitment of corepressor complexes is a general mechanism of leukemogenesis.
The ETO protein was originally identified by its fusion to the AML-1 transcription factor in translocation (8;21) associated with the M2 form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The resulting AML-1–ETO fusion is an aberrant transcriptional regulator due to the ability of ETO, which does not bind DNA itself, to recruit the transcriptional corepressors N-CoR, SMRT, and Sin3A and histone deacetylases. The promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger (PLZF) protein is a sequence-specific DNA-binding transcriptional factor fused to retinoic acid receptor α in acute promyelocytic leukemia associated with the (11;17)(q23;q21) translocation. PLZF also mediates transcriptional repression through the actions of corepressors and histone deacetylases. We found that ETO is one of the corepressors recruited by PLZF. The PLZF and ETO proteins associate in vivo and in vitro, and ETO can potentiate transcriptional repression by PLZF. The N-terminal portion of ETO forms complexes with PLZF, while the C-terminal region, which was shown to bind to N-CoR and SMRT, is required for the ability of ETO to augment transcriptional repression by PLZF. The second repression domain (RD2) of PLZF, not the POZ/BTB domain, is necessary to bind to ETO. Corepression by ETO was completely abrogated by histone deacetylase inhibitors. This identifies ETO as a cofactor for a sequence-specific transcription factor and indicates that, like other corepressors, it functions through the action of histone deactylase.
Synthetic retinoids activate RARA- or PML/RARA-dependent transcription, but fail to degrade RARA or PML/RARA protein, which is insufficient for eradication of acute promyelocytic leukemia.
In PML/RARA-driven acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), retinoic acid (RA) induces leukemia cell differentiation and transiently clears the disease. Molecularly, RA activates PML/RARA-dependent transcription and also initiates its proteasome-mediated degradation. In contrast, arsenic, the other potent anti-APL therapy, only induces PML/RARA degradation by specifically targeting its PML moiety. The respective contributions of RA-triggered transcriptional activation and proteolysis to clinical response remain disputed. Here, we identify synthetic retinoids that potently activate RARA- or PML/RARA-dependent transcription, but fail to down-regulate RARA or PML/RARA protein levels. Similar to RA, these uncoupled retinoids elicit terminal differentiation, but unexpectedly fail to impair leukemia-initiating activity of PML/RARA-transformed cells ex vivo or in vivo. Accordingly, the survival benefit conferred by uncoupled retinoids in APL mice is dramatically lower than the one provided by RA. Differentiated APL blasts sorted from uncoupled retinoid–treated mice retain PML/RARA expression and reinitiate APL in secondary transplants. Thus, differentiation is insufficient for APL eradication, whereas PML/RARA loss is essential. These observations unify the modes of action of RA and arsenic and shed light on the potency of their combination in mice or patients.
In this report we review the current knowledge of the interaction of RUNX1(AML1) with serine/threonine kinases, lysine and arginine methyltransferases, lysine acetyltransferases, and histone deacetylases. We also discuss the effect of RUNX1-ETO fusion gene on DNA methylation. RUNX1 post-transcriptional modification can affect its role in influencing differentiation and self-renewal of hematopoietic cells. The goal of these studies is to develop targets for improved leukemia therapy.