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Mol Cell Biol. 2006 Sep;26(17):6442-52.

Critical role for a single leucine residue in leukemia induction by E2A-PBX1.

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  • 1Division of Cancer Biology and Genetics, Cancer Research Institute, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada.


In roughly 5% of cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a chromosomal translocation leads to expression of the oncogenic protein E2A-PBX1. The N-terminal portion of E2A-PBX1, encoded by the E2A gene, is identical in sequence to the corresponding portion of the E proteins E12/E47 and includes transcriptional activation domains. The C terminus consists of most of the HOX interacting transcription factor PBX1, including its DNA-binding homeodomain. Structure-function correlative experiments have suggested that oncogenesis by E2A-PBX1 requires an activation domain, called AD1, at the extreme N terminus. We recently demonstrated that a potentially helical portion of AD1 interacts directly with the transcriptional coactivator protein cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CBP) and that this interaction is essential in the immortalization of primary bone marrow cells in tissue culture. Here we show that a conserved LXXLL motif within AD1 is required in the interaction between E2A-PBX1 and the KIX domain of CBP. We show by circular dichroism spectroscopy that the LXXLL-containing portion of AD1 undergoes a helical transition upon interacting with the KIX domain and that amino acid substitutions that prevent helix formation prevent both the KIX interaction and cell immortalization by E2A-PBX1. Perhaps most strikingly, substitution of a single, conserved leucine residue (L20) within the LXXLL motif impairs leukemia induction in mice after transplantation with E2A-PBX1-expressing bone marrow. The KIX domain of CBP mediates well-characterized interactions with several transcription factors of relevance to leukemia induction. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the side chain of L20 might interact with a deep hydrophobic pocket in the KIX domain. Therefore, our results serve to identify a potential new drug target.

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