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Cancer Cell. 2003 Sep;4(3):197-207.

Dimerization of MLL fusion proteins immortalizes hematopoietic cells.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


MLL fusion proteins are leukemogenic, but their mechanism is unclear. Induced dimerization of a truncated MLL immortalizes bone marrow and imposes a reversible block on myeloid differentiation associated with upregulation of Hox a7, a9, and Meis1. Both dimerized MLL and exon-duplicated MLL are potent transcriptional activators, suggesting a link between dimerization and partial tandem duplication of DNA binding domains of MLL. Dimerized MLL binds with higher affinity than undimerized MLL to a CpG island within the Hox a9 locus. However, MLL-AF9 is not dimerized in vivo. The data support a model in which either MLL dimerization/exon duplication or fusion to a transcriptional activator results in Hox gene upregulation and ultimately transformation.

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