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Blood. 2013 Mar 28;121(13):2533-41. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-11-465120. Epub 2013 Jan 29.

Leukemic transformation by the MLL-AF6 fusion oncogene requires the H3K79 methyltransferase Dot1l.

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Division of Hematology/Oncology, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


The t(6;11)(q27;q23) is a recurrent chromosomal rearrangement that encodes the MLLAF6 fusion oncoprotein and is observed in patients with diverse hematologic malignancies. The presence of the t(6;11)(q27;q23) has been linked to poor overall survival in patients with AML. In this study, we demonstrate that MLL-AF6 requires continued activity of the histone-methyltransferase DOT1L to maintain expression of the MLL-AF6-driven oncogenic gene-expression program. Using gene-expression analysis and genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation studies followed by next generation sequencing, we found that MLL-fusion target genes display markedly high levels of histone 3 at lysine 79 (H3K79) dimethylation in murine MLL-AF6 leukemias as well as in ML2, a human myelomonocytic leukemia cell line bearing the t(6;11)(q27;q23) translocation. Targeted disruption of Dot1l using a conditional knockout mouse model inhibited leukemogenesis mediated by the MLL-AF6 fusion oncogene. Moreover, both murine MLL-AF6-transformed cells as well as the human MLL-AF6-positive ML2 leukemia cell line displayed specific sensitivity to EPZ0004777, a recently described, selective, small-molecule inhibitor of Dot1l. Dot1l inhibition resulted in significantly decreased proliferation, decreased expression of MLL-AF6 target genes, and cell cycle arrest of MLL-AF6-transformed cells. These results indicate that patients bearing the t(6;11)(q27;q23) translocation may benefit from therapeutic agents targeting aberrant H3K79 methylation.

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