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Cancer Res. 1999 Apr 1;59(7 Suppl):1789s-1793s.

Core-binding factor: a central player in hematopoiesis and leukemia.

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Department of Biochemistry, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.


Consistent chromosomal rearrangements are found in a large number of hematopoietic tumors. In many cases, these rearrangements disrupt genes whose normal function is required for the proper development of blood cells. Excellent examples are the chromosomal rearrangements t(8;21)(q22;q22), t(12;21)(p13;q22), and inv(16)(p13q22) that disrupt two of the genes encoding a small family of heterodimeric transcription factors, core-binding factors (CBFs). CBFs consist of a DNA-binding CBFalpha subunit and a non-DNA-binding CBFbeta subunit. The t(8;21), associated with de novo acute myeloid leukemias, disrupts the CBFA2 (AML1) gene, which encodes a DNA-binding CBFalpha subunit. The t(12;21), the most common translocation in pediatric acute lymphocytic leukemias, also disrupts CBFA2. The CBFB gene, which encodes the non-DNA-binding subunit of the CBFs, is disrupted by the inv(16) in de novo acute myeloid leukemias. All chromosomal rearrangements involving the CBFA2 and CBFB genes create chimeric proteins, two of which have been unequivocally demonstrated to function as transdominant negative inhibitors of CBF function. Both the Cbfa2 and Cbfb genes are essential for normal hematopoiesis in mice, because homozygous disruption of either gene blocks definitive hematopoiesis. Recent data suggest that Cbfa2 and Cbfb are required for the emergence of definitive hematopoietic stem cells in the embryo from a putative definitive hemangioblast precursor. The transdominant negative inhibitor of CBF created by the inv(16), when present from the beginning of embryogenesis, also blocks the emergence of definitive hematopoietic cells in the embryo. On the other hand, chromosomal translocations involving the CBFA2 and CBFB genes in leukemias block hematopoiesis at later steps. This may reflect a difference in the timing at which translocations are acquired in the leukemias, which presumably is subsequent to emergence of the definitive hematopoietic stem cell. The cumulative data suggest that although the earliest requirement for Cbfa2 and Cbfb is for emergence of definitive hematopoietic stem cells, both genes are also required at later stages in the differentiation of some hematopoietic lineages.

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