To evaluate the prognostic significance of CEBPA mutations in the context of established molecular markers in cytogenetically normal (CN) acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and gain biologic insights into leukemogenesis of the CN-AML molecular high-risk subset (FLT3 internal tandem duplication [ITD] positive and/or NPM1 wild type) that has a significantly higher incidence of CEBPA mutations than the molecular low-risk subset (FLT3-ITD negative and NPM1 mutated).
Patients and Methods
One hundred seventy-five adults age less than 60 years with untreated primary CN-AML were screened before treatment for CEBPA, FLT3, MLL, WT1, and NPM1 mutations and BAALC and ERG expression levels. Gene and microRNA (miRNA) expression profiles were obtained for the CN-AML molecular high-risk patients.
CEBPA mutations predicted better event-free (P = .007), disease-free (P = .014), and overall survival (P < .001) independently of other molecular and clinical prognosticators. Among patients with CEBPA mutations, 91% were in the CN-AML molecular high-risk group. Within this group, CEBPA mutations predicted better event-free (P < .001), disease-free (P = .004), and overall survival (P = .009) independently of other molecular and clinical characteristics and were associated with unique gene and miRNA expression profiles. The major features of these profiles were upregulation of genes (eg, GATA1, ZFPM1, EPOR, and GFI1B) and miRNAs (ie, the miR-181 family) involved in erythroid differentiation and downregulation of homeobox genes.
Pretreatment testing for CEBPA mutations identifies CN-AML patients with different outcomes, particularly in the molecular high-risk group, thus improving molecular risk-based classification of this large cytogenetic subset of AML. The gene and miRNA expression profiling provided insights into leukemogenesis of the CN-AML molecular high-risk group, indicating that CEBPA mutations are associated with partial erythroid differentiation.
Germline testing for familial cases of myeloid leukemia in adults is becoming more common with the recognition of multiple genetic syndromes predisposing people to bone marrow disease. Currently, Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments approved testing exists for several myeloid leukemia predisposition syndromes: familial platelet disorder with propensity to acute myeloid leukemia (FPD/AML), caused by mutations in RUNX1; familial AML with mutated CEBPA; familial myelodysplastic syndrome and acute leukemia with mutated GATA2; and the inherited bone marrow failure syndromes, including dyskeratosis congenita, a disease of abnormal telomere maintenance. With the recognition of additional families with a genetic component to their leukemia, new predisposition alleles will likely be identified. We highlight how to recognize and manage these cases as well as outline the characteristics of the major known syndromes. We look forward to future research increasing our understanding of the scope of inherited myeloid leukemia syndromes.
familial leukemia predisposition; RUNX1; CEBPA; GATA2; dyskeratosis congenita; Fanconi anemia
Cytotoxic chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) usually produces only temporary remissions, at the cost of significant toxicity and risk for death. One fundamental reason for treatment failure is that it is designed to activate apoptosis genes (eg., TP53) that may be unavailable because of mutation or deletion. Unlike deletion of apoptosis genes, genes that mediate cell cycle exit by differentiation are present in myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and AML cells but are epigenetically repressed: MDS/AML cells express high levels of key lineage-specifying transcription factors (TF). Mutation in these TF (eg., CEBPA) or their cofactors (eg., RUNX1) affect transactivation function and produce epigenetic repression of late-differentiation genes that antagonize MYC. Importantly, this aberrant epigenetic repression can be redressed clinically by depleting DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1, a central component of the epigenetic network that mediates transcription repression) using the deoxycytidine analogue decitabine (DAC) at non-cytotoxic concentrations. The DNMT1 depletion is sufficient to trigger upregulation of late-differentiation genes and irreversible cell cycle exit by p53-independent differentiation mechanisms. Fortuitously, the same treatment maintains or increases self-renewal of normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), which do not express high levels of lineage-specifying TF. The biological rationale for this approach to therapy appears to apply to cancers other than MDS/AML also. DAC or 5-azacytidine dose and schedule can be rationalized to emphasize this mechanism of action, as an alternative or complement to conventional apoptosis-based oncotherapy.
Decitabine; differentiation; p53; p16; p27; CDKN2A; CDKN1B; therapy; chromatin modifying enzymes; cancer; leukemia
The clinical impact of aberrant CEBPA promoter methylation (PM) in AML is controversially discussed. The aim of this study was to clarify the significance of aberrant CEBPA PM with regard to clinical features in a cohort of 623 cytogenetically normal (CN) de novo AML. 555 cases had wild-type CEBPA, 68 cases harbored CEBPA mutations. The distal promoter was methylated in 238/623 cases (38.2%), the core promoter in 8 of 326 cases (2.5%), whereas proximal PM was never detected. CEBPA PM and CEBPA mutations were mutually exclusive. CEBPA distal PM positive cases were characterized by reduced CEBPA mRNA expression levels and elevated white blood cell counts. CEBPA distal PM was less frequent in patients with mutations in FLT3, NPM1 and TET2 and more frequent in cases with RUNX1 and IDH2R140 mutations. Overall, no association of methylation to prognosis was seen. However CEBPA distal PM was associated with inferior outcome in cases with low FLT3-ITD ratio or TET2 mutations. A distinct gene expression profile of CEBPA distal PM positive cases compared to CEBPA mutated and CEBPA distal PM negative cases was observed. In conclusion, the presence of aberrant CEBPA PM is associated with distinct biological features but impact on outcome is weak.
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.
leukemia; myeloid; differentiation; hematopoiesis
Myeloid malignant diseases comprise chronic (including myelodysplastic syndromes, myeloproliferative neoplasms and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia) and acute (acute myeloid leukemia) stages. They are clonal diseases arising in hematopoietic stem or progenitor cells. Mutations responsible for these diseases occur in several genes whose encoded proteins belong principally to five classes: signaling pathways proteins (e.g. CBL, FLT3, JAK2, RAS), transcription factors (e.g. CEBPA, ETV6, RUNX1), epigenetic regulators (e.g. ASXL1, DNMT3A, EZH2, IDH1, IDH2, SUZ12, TET2, UTX), tumor suppressors (e.g. TP53), and components of the spliceosome (e.g. SF3B1, SRSF2). Large-scale sequencing efforts will soon lead to the establishment of a comprehensive repertoire of these mutations, allowing for a better definition and classification of myeloid malignancies, the identification of new prognostic markers and therapeutic targets, and the development of novel therapies. Given the importance of epigenetic deregulation in myeloid diseases, the use of drugs targeting epigenetic regulators appears as a most promising therapeutic approach.
RUNX1 is generally considered a tumor suppressor in myeloid neoplasms. Inactivating RUNX1 mutations have frequently been found in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, no somatic RUNX1 alteration was found in AMLs with leukemogenic fusion proteins, such as core-binding factor (CBF) leukemia and MLL fusion leukemia, raising the possibility that RUNX1 could actually promote the growth of these leukemia cells. Using normal human cord blood cells and those expressing leukemogenic fusion proteins, we discovered a dual role of RUNX1 in myeloid leukemogenesis. RUNX1 overexpression inhibited the growth of normal cord blood cells by inducing myeloid differentiation, whereas a certain level of RUNX1 activity was required for the growth of AML1-ETO and MLL-AF9 cells. Using a mouse genetic model, we also showed that the combined loss of Runx1/Cbfb inhibited leukemia development induced by MLL-AF9. RUNX2 could compensate for the loss of RUNX1. The survival effect of RUNX1 was mediated by BCL2 in MLL fusion leukemia. Our study unveiled an unexpected prosurvival role for RUNX1 in myeloid leukemogenesis. Inhibiting RUNX1 activity rather than enhancing it could be a promising therapeutic strategy for AMLs with leukemogenic fusion proteins.
We have investigated the role of erythroid transcription factors mRNA expression in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in the context of cytogenetic and other prognostic molecular markers, such as FMS-like Tyrosine Kinase 3 (FLT3), Nucleophosmin 1 (NPM1), and CCAAT/enhance-binding protein α (CEBPA) mutations. Further validation of Erythroid Krüppel-like Factor (EKLF) mRNA expression as a prognostic factor was assessed.
We evaluated GATA binding protein 1 (GATA1), GATA binding protein 2 (GATA2), EKLF and Myeloproliferative Leukemia virus oncogen homology (cMPL) gene mRNA expression in the bone marrow of 65 AML patients at diagnosis, and assessed any correlation with NPM1, FLT3 and CEBPA mutations. EKLF-positive AML was associated with lower WBC in peripheral blood (P = 0.049), a higher percentage of erythroblasts in bone marrow (p = 0.057), and secondary AMLs (P = 0.036). High expression levels of EKLF showed a trend to association with T-cell antigen expression, such as CD7 (P = 0.057). Patients expressing EKLF had longer Overall Survival (OS) and Event Free Survival (EFS) than those patients not expressing EKLF (median OS was 35.61 months and 19.31 months, respectively, P = 0.0241; median EFS was 19.80 months and 8.03 months, respectively, P = 0.0140). No correlation of GATA1, GATA2, EKLF and cMPL levels was observed with FLT-3 or NPM1 mutation status. Four of four CEBPA mutated AMLs were EKLF positive versus 10 of 29 CEBPA wild-type AMLs; three of the CEBPA mutated, EKLF-positive AMLs were also GATA2 positive. There were no cases of CEBPA mutations in the EKLF-negative AML group. In conclusion, we have validated EKLF mRNA expression as an independent predictor of outcome in AML, and its expression is not associated with FLT3-ITD and NPM1 mutations. EKLF mRNA expression in AML patients may correlate with dysregulated CEBPA.
Acute myeloid leukemia; Transcription factors; EKLF; GATA1; GATA2; cMPL; FLT3; NPM1; CEBPA mutations
CD7 is a negative prognostic marker in myeloid malignancies. In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an inverse correlation exists between expression of wild-type CEBPA and CD7. Aim of this study was to find out whether C/EBPα is a negative regulator of CD7 and which other regulatory mechanisms might be involved.
As already described for primary AML cells, the majority of AML cell lines tested were either C/EBPα+/CD7- or C/EBPα-/CD7+. However, the existence of isolated CD7+ cell lines expressing wild-type C/EBPα challenges the notion that C/EBPα acts as a unique repressor of CD7. Furthermore, ectopic expression of CEBPA did not reduce CD7 in CD7+ cells and knock-down of C/EBPα failed to induce CD7 in CD7- cells. In contrast, the DNA demethylating agent Aza-2'deoxycytidine triggered CD7 expression in CD7- AML and in T-cell lines suggesting epigenetic regulation of CD7. Bisulfite sequencing data confirmed that CpGs in the CD7 exon1 region are methylated in CD7- cell lines, and unmethylated in CD7+ cell lines.
We confirmed an inverse correlation between the expression of wild-type CEBPA and of CD7 in AML cells. Our results contradict the hypothesis that C/EBPα acts as repressor for CD7, and instead show that epigenetic mechanisms are responsible for CD7 regulation, in AML cells as well as in T-cells, the typical CD7 expressing cell type.
RUNX1 transcription factor (TF) is a key regulator of megakaryocytic development and when mutated is associated with familial platelet disorder and predisposition to acute myeloid leukemia (FPD-AML). We used mice lacking Runx1 specifically in megakaryocytes (MK) to characterized Runx1-mediated transcriptional program during advanced stages of MK differentiation. Gene expression and chromatin-immunoprecipitation-sequencing (ChIP-seq) of Runx1 and p300 identified functional Runx1 bound MK enhancers. Runx1/p300 co-bound regions showed significant enrichment in genes important for MK and platelet homeostasis. Runx1 occupied genomic regions were highly enriched in RUNX and ETS motifs and to a lesser extent in GATA motif. Megakaryocytic specificity of Runx1/P300 bound enhancers was validated by transfection mutagenesis and Runx1/P300 co-bound regions of two key megakaryocytic genes Nfe2 and Selp were tested by in vivo transgenesis. The data provides the first example of genome wide Runx1/p300 occupancy in maturating primary FL-MK, unravel the Runx1-regulated program controlling MK maturation in vivo and identify a subset of its bona fide regulated genes. It advances our understanding of the molecular events that upon RUNX1mutations in human lead to the predisposition to familial platelet disorders and FPD-AML.
The RUNX1 transcription factor gene is frequently mutated in sporadic myeloid and lymphoid leukemia through translocation, point mutation or amplification. It is also responsible for a familial platelet disorder with predisposition to acute myeloid leukemia (FPD-AML). The disruption of the largely unknown biological pathways controlled by RUNX1 is likely to be responsible for the development of leukemia. We have used multiple microarray platforms and bioinformatic techniques to help identify these biological pathways to aid in the understanding of why RUNX1 mutations lead to leukemia.
Here we report genes regulated either directly or indirectly by RUNX1 based on the study of gene expression profiles generated from 3 different human and mouse platforms. The platforms used were global gene expression profiling of: 1) cell lines with RUNX1 mutations from FPD-AML patients, 2) over-expression of RUNX1 and CBFβ, and 3) Runx1 knockout mouse embryos using either cDNA or Affymetrix microarrays. We observe that our datasets (lists of differentially expressed genes) significantly correlate with published microarray data from sporadic AML patients with mutations in either RUNX1 or its cofactor, CBFβ. A number of biological processes were identified among the differentially expressed genes and functional assays suggest that heterozygous RUNX1 point mutations in patients with FPD-AML impair cell proliferation, microtubule dynamics and possibly genetic stability. In addition, analysis of the regulatory regions of the differentially expressed genes has for the first time systematically identified numerous potential novel RUNX1 target genes.
This work is the first large-scale study attempting to identify the genetic networks regulated by RUNX1, a master regulator in the development of the hematopoietic system and leukemia. The biological pathways and target genes controlled by RUNX1 will have considerable importance in disease progression in both familial and sporadic leukemia as well as therapeutic implications.
C/EBPs are a family of transcription factors that regulate growth control and differentiation of various tissues. We found that C/EBPγ is highly upregulated in a subset of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) samples characterized by C/EBPα hypermethylation/silencing. Similarly, C/EBPγ was upregulated in murine hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells lacking C/EBPα, as C/EBPα mediates C/EBPγ suppression. Studies in myeloid cells demonstrated that CEBPG overexpression blocked neutrophilic differentiation. Further, downregulation of Cebpg in murine Cebpa-deficient stem/progenitor cells or in human CEBPA-silenced AML samples restored granulocytic differentiation. In addition, treatment of these leukemias with demethylating agents restored the C/EBPα-C/EBPγ balance and upregulated the expression of myeloid differentiation markers. Our results indicate that C/EBPγ mediates the myeloid differentiation arrest induced by C/EBPα deficiency and that targeting the C/EBPα-C/EBPγ axis rescues neutrophilic differentiation in this unique subset of AMLs.
CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein-α (CEBPA) is crucial for normal granulopoiesis and is frequently disrupted in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Increasing evidence suggests that CEBPA exerts its effects, in parts, by regulating specific microRNAs (miRNAs), as previously shown for miR-223. The aim of this study was to investigate the genome-wide pattern of miRNAs regulated by CEBPA in myeloid cells.
In Kasumi-1 cells, conditionally expressing CEBPA, we assessed the expression of 470 human miRNAs by microarray analysis. We further investigated the microarray results by qRT-PCR, luciferase reporter assays, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays.
In all, 18 miRNAs were more than two-fold suppressed or induced after CEBPA restoration. Among these 18 miRNAs, we focused on CEBPA-mediated regulation of the tumour-suppressive miR-29b. We observed that miR-29b is suppressed in AML patients with impaired CEBPA function or loss of chromosome 7q. We found that CEBPA selectively regulates miR-29b expression on its miR-29a/b1 locus on chromosome 7q32.3, whereas miR-29b2/c on chromosome 1q32.2 is not affected.
This study reports the activation of the tumour-suppressive miR-29b by the haematopoietic key transcription factor CEBPA. Our data provide a rationale for miR-29b suppression in AML patients with loss of chromosome 7q or CEBPA deficiency.
AML; CEBPA; miR-29a/b/c family; transcriptional regulation
To analyze the prognostic impact of Wilms’ tumor 1 (WT1) gene mutations in cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (CN-AML).
Patients and Methods
We studied 196 adults younger than 60 years with newly diagnosed primary CN-AML, who were treated similarly on Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) protocols 9621 and 19808, for WT1 mutations in exons 7 and 9. The patients also were assessed for the presence of FLT3 internal tandem duplications (FLT3-ITD), FLT3 tyrosine kinase domain mutations (FLT3-TKD), MLL partial tandem duplications (MLL-PTD), NPM1 and CEBPA mutations, and for the expression levels of ERG and BAALC.
Twenty-one patients (10.7%) harbored WT1 mutations. Complete remission rates were not significantly different between patients with WT1 mutations and those with unmutated WT1 (P = .36; 76% v 84%). Patients with WT1 mutations had worse disease-free survival (DFS; P < .001; 3-year rates, 13% v 50%) and overall survival (OS; P < .001; 3-year rates, 10% v 56%) than patients with unmutated WT1. In multivariable analyses, WT1 mutations independently predicted worse DFS (P = .009; hazard ratio [HR] = 2.7) when controlling for CEBPA mutational status, ERG expression level, and FLT3-ITD/NPM1 molecular-risk group (ie, FLT3-ITDnegative/NPM1mutated as low risk v FLT3-ITDpositive and/or NPM1wild-type as high risk). WT1 mutations also independently predicted worse OS (P < .001; HR = 3.2) when controlling for CEBPA mutational status, FLT3-ITD/NPM1 molecular-risk group, and white blood cell count.
We report the first evidence that WT1 mutations independently predict extremely poor outcome in intensively treated, younger patients with CN-AML. Future trials should include testing for WT1 mutations as part of molecularly based risk assessment and risk-adapted treatment stratification of patients with CN-AML.
To analyze the prognostic significance of NPM1 mutations, and the associated gene- and microRNA-expression signatures in older patients with de novo, cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (CN-AML) treated with intensive chemotherapy.
Patients and Methods
One hundred forty-eight adults age ≥ 60 years with de novo CN-AML, enrolled onto Cancer and Leukemia Group B protocols 9720 and 10201, were studied at diagnosis for NPM1, FLT3, CEBPA, and WT1 mutations, and gene- and microRNA-expression profiles.
Patients with NPM1 mutations (56%) had higher complete remission (CR) rates (84% v 48%; P < .001) and longer disease-free survival (DFS; P = .047; 3-year rates, 23% v 10%) and overall survival (OS; P < .001; 3-year rates, 35% v 8%) than NPM1 wild-type patients. In multivariable analyses, NPM1 mutations remained independent predictors for higher CR rates (P < .001) and longer DFS (P = .004) and OS (P < .001), after adjustment for other prognostic clinical and molecular variables. Unexpectedly, the prognostic impact of NPM1 mutations was mainly observed in patients ≥ 70 years. Gene- and microRNA-expression profiles associated with NPM1 mutations were similar across older patient age groups and similar to those in younger (< 60 years) patients with CN-AML. These profiles were characterized by upregulation of HOX genes and their embedded microRNAs and downregulation of the prognostically adverse MN1, BAALC, and ERG genes.
NPM1 mutations have favorable prognostic impact in older patients with CN-AML, especially those age ≥ 70 years. The gene- and microRNA-expression profiles suggest that NPM1 mutations constitute a marker defining a biologically homogeneous entity in CN-AML that might be treated with specific and/or targeted therapies across age groups.
To determine the prognostic importance of the meningioma 1 (MN1) gene expression levels in the context of other predictive molecular markers, and to derive MN1 associated gene– and microRNA–expression profiles in cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (CN-AML).
Patients and Methods
MN1 expression was measured in 119 untreated primary CN-AML adults younger than 60 years by real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Patients were also tested for FLT3, NPM1, CEBPA, and WT1 mutations, MLL partial tandem duplications, and BAALC and ERG expression. Gene- and microRNA-expression profiles were attained by performing genome-wide microarray assays. Patients were intensively treated on two first-line Cancer and Leukemia Group B clinical trials.
Higher MN1 expression associated with NPM1 wild-type (P < .001), increased BAALC expression (P = .004), and less extramedullary involvement (P = .01). In multivariable analyses, higher MN1 expression associated with a lower complete remission rate (P = .005) after adjustment for WBC; shorter disease-free survival (P = .01) after adjustment for WT1 mutations, FLT3 internal tandem duplications (FLT3-ITD), and high ERG expression; and shorter survival (P = .04) after adjustment for WT1 and NPM1 mutations, FLT3-ITD, and WBC. Gene- and microRNA-expression profiles suggested that high MN1 expressers share features with high BAALC expressers and patients with wild-type NPM1. Higher MN1 expression also appears to be associated with genes and microRNAs that are active in aberrant macrophage/monocytoid function and differentiation.
MN1 expression independently predicts outcome in CN-AML patients. The MN1 gene- and microRNA-expression signatures suggest biologic features that could be exploited as therapeutic targets.
To analyze the frequency and associations with prognostic markers and outcome of mutations in IDH genes encoding isocitrate dehydrogenases in adult de novo cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (CN-AML).
Patients and Methods
Diagnostic bone marrow or blood samples from 358 patients were analyzed for IDH1 and IDH2 mutations by DNA polymerase chain reaction amplification/sequencing. FLT3, NPM1, CEBPA, WT1, and MLL mutational analyses and gene- and microRNA-expression profiling were performed centrally.
IDH mutations were found in 33% of the patients. IDH1 mutations were detected in 49 patients (14%; 47 with R132). IDH2 mutations, previously unreported in AML, were detected in 69 patients (19%; 13 with R172 and 56 with R140). R172 IDH2 mutations were mutually exclusive with all other prognostic mutations analyzed. Younger age (< 60 years), molecular low-risk (NPM1-mutated/FLT3-internal tandem duplication–negative) IDH1-mutated patients had shorter disease-free survival than molecular low-risk IDH1/IDH2-wild-type (wt) patients (P = .046). R172 IDH2-mutated patients had lower complete remission rates than IDH1/IDH2wt patients (P = .007). Distinctive microarray gene- and microRNA-expression profiles accurately predicted R172 IDH2 mutations. The highest expressed gene and microRNAs in R172 IDH2-mutated patients compared with the IDH1/IDH2wt patients were APP (previously associated with complex karyotype AML) and miR-1 and miR-133 (involved in embryonal stem-cell differentiation), respectively.
IDH1 and IDH2 mutations are recurrent in CN-AML and have an unfavorable impact on outcome. The R172 IDH2 mutations, previously unreported in AML, characterize a novel subset of CN-AML patients lacking other prognostic mutations and associate with unique gene- and microRNA-expression profiles that may lead to the discovery of novel, therapeutically targetable leukemogenic mechanisms.
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
To determine the association of RUNX1 mutations with therapeutic outcome in younger and older patients with primary cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (CN-AML) and with gene/microRNA expression signatures.
Patients and Methods
Younger (< 60 years; n = 175) and older (≥ 60 years; n = 225) patients with CN-AML treated with intensive cytarabine/anthracycline-based first-line therapy on Cancer and Leukemia Group B protocols were centrally analyzed for RUNX1 mutations by polymerase chain reaction and direct sequencing and for established prognostic gene mutations. Gene/microRNA expression profiles were derived using microarrays.
RUNX1 mutations were found in 8% and 16% of younger and older patients, respectively (P = .02). They were associated with ASXL1 mutations (P < .001) and inversely associated with NPM1 (P < .001) and CEBPA (P = .06) mutations. RUNX1-mutated patients had lower complete remission rates (P = .005 in younger; P = .006 in older) and shorter disease-free survival (P = .058 in younger; P < .001 in older), overall survival (P = .003 in younger; P < .001 in older), and event-free survival (P < .001 for younger and older) than RUNX1 wild-type patients. Because RUNX1 mutations were more common in older patients and almost never coexisted with NPM1 mutations, RUNX1 mutation–associated expression signatures were derived in older, NPM1 wild-type patients and featured upregulation of genes normally expressed in primitive hematopoietic cells and B-cell progenitors, including DNTT, BAALC, BLNK, CD109, RBPMS, and FLT3, and downregulation of promoters of myelopoiesis, including CEBPA and miR-223.
RUNX1 mutations are twice as common in older than younger patients with CN-AML and negatively impact outcome in both age groups. RUNX1-mutated blasts have molecular features of primitive hematopoietic and lymphoid progenitors, potentially leading to novel therapeutic approaches.
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
GATA-2 is an essential transcription factor that regulates multiple aspects of hematopoiesis. Dysregulation of GATA-2 is a hallmark of acute megakaryoblastic leukemia in children with Down syndrome, a malignancy that is defined by the combination of trisomy 21 and a GATA1 mutation. Here, we show that GATA-2 is required for normal megakaryocyte development as well as aberrant megakaryopoiesis in Gata1 mutant cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that GATA-2 indirectly controls cell cycle progression in GATA-1-deficient megakaryocytes. Genome-wide microarray analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation studies revealed that GATA-2 regulates a wide set of genes, including cell cycle regulators and megakaryocyte-specific genes. Surprisingly, GATA-2 also negatively regulates the expression of crucial myeloid transcription factors, such as Sfpi1 and Cebpa. In the absence of GATA-1, GATA-2 prevents induction of a latent myeloid gene expression program. Thus, GATA-2 contributes to cell cycle progression and the maintenance of megakaryocyte identity of GATA-1-deficient cells, including GATA-1s-expressing fetal megakaryocyte progenitors. Moreover, our data reveal that overexpression of GATA-2 facilitates aberrant megakaryopoiesis.
Whether signals mediated via growth factor receptors (GFRs) might influence lineage fate in multipotent progenitors (MPPs) is unclear. We explored this issue in a mouse knockin model of gain-of-function Flt3-ITD mutation because FLT3-ITDs are paradoxically restricted to acute myeloid leukemia even though Flt3 primarily promotes lymphoid development during normal hematopoiesis. When expressed in MPPs, Flt3-ITD collaborated with Runx1 mutation to induce high-penetrance aggressive leukemias that were exclusively of the myeloid phenotype. Flt3-ITDs preferentially expanded MPPs with reduced lymphoid and increased myeloid transcriptional priming while compromising early B and T lymphopoiesis. Flt3-ITD-induced myeloid lineage bias involved upregulation of the transcription factor Pu.1, which is a direct target gene of Stat3, an aberrantly activated target of Flt3-ITDs, further establishing how lineage bias can be inflicted on MPPs through aberrant GFR signaling. Collectively, these findings provide new insights into how oncogenic mutations might subvert the normal process of lineage commitment and dictate the phenotype of resulting malignancies.
•Flt3-ITDs collaborate with Runx1 mutation to cause acute myeloid leukemia exclusively•Flt3-ITDs instruct myeloid lineage bias in lymphoid-primed multipotent precursors•Flt3-ITDs inhibit thymic seeding by bone marrow progenitors•Flt3-ITD-induced myeloid bias and progenitor phenotype involve upregulation of Pu.1
In this study, Mead, Jacobsen, and colleagues demonstrate that constitutive growth factor receptor (GFR) signaling through an Flt3-ITD mutation instructs a myeloid-lineage differentiation bias to multipotent hematopoietic progenitor cells. Runx1 mutation collaborated with Flt3-ITD to induce aggressive, universally myeloid-lineage leukemias, indicating that Flt3-ITD GFR signaling acts to dictate the phenotype of resulting malignancies. The Flt3-ITD-induced myeloid lineage bias involves upregulation of the transcription factor Pu.1, thus establishing how GFR signaling might elicit lineage-instructive signaling in vivo.
Dominant RUNX1 inhibition has been proposed as a common pathway for CBF-leukemia. CBFβ-SMMHC, a fusion protein in human acute myeloid leukemia (AML), dominantly inhibits RUNX1 largely through its RUNX1 high-affinity binding domain (HABD). However, the type I CBFβ-SMMHC fusion in AML patients lacks HABD. Here we report that the type I CBFβ-SMMHC protein binds RUNX1 inefficiently. Knock-in mice expressing CBFβ-SMMHC with a HABD deletion developed leukemia quickly, even though hematopoietic defects associated with Runx1-inhibition were partially rescued. A larger pool of leukemia initiating cells, increased MN1 expression, and retention of RUNX1 phosphorylation are potential mechanisms for accelerated leukemia development in these mice. Our data suggest that RUNX1 dominant inhibition may not be a critical step for leukemogenesis by CBFβ-SMMHC.
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.
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.
Translocations and mutations in the core binding factor genes, RUNX1 or CBFB, are found in acute myeloid and lymphocytic leukemia, therapy-related myeloid leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, and in familial platelet disorder with predisposition to acute myeloid leukemia. Here we review the biochemical and biological properties of the normal Runx1 protein, discuss the nature of RUNX1 mutations in myeloid leukemia, their prognostic significance, and the mutations that cooperate or co-exist with them in these various diseases.
Runx1; AML; MDS; Hematopoietic Stem Cells