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Mol Cell Biol. 1998 Jan;18(1):122-9.

The oncogenic capacity of HRX-ENL requires the transcriptional transactivation activity of ENL and the DNA binding motifs of HRX.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Stanford University Medical Center, California 94305, USA.


The HRX gene (also called MLL, ALL-1, and Htrx) at chromosome band 11q23 is associated with specific subsets of acute leukemias through translocations that result in its fusion with a variety of heterologous partners. Two of these partners, ENL and AF9, code for proteins that are highly similar to each other and as fusions with HRX induce myeloid leukemias in mice as demonstrated by retroviral gene transfer and knock-in experiments, respectively. In the present study, a structure-function analysis was performed to determine the molecular requirements for in vitro immortalization of murine myeloid cells by HRX-ENL. Deletions of either the AT hook motifs or the methyltransferase homology domain of HRX substantially impaired the transforming effects of HRX-ENL. The methyltransferase homology domain was shown to bind non-sequence specifically to DNA in vitro, providing evidence that the full transforming activity of HRX-ENL requires multiple DNA binding structures in HRX. The carboxy-terminal 84 amino acids of ENL, which encode two predicted helical structures highly conserved in AF9, were necessary and sufficient for transformation when they were fused to HRX. Similarly, mutations that deleted one or both of these conserved helices completely abrogated the transcriptional activation properties of ENL. This finding correlates, for the first time, a biological function of an HRX fusion partner with the transforming activity of the chimeric proteins. Our studies support a model in which HRX-ENL induces myeloid transformation by deregulating subordinate genes through a gain of function contributed by the transcriptional effector properties of ENL.

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