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Nat Chem Biol. 2016 Sep;12(9):672-9. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.2115. Epub 2016 Jul 4.

Sensitivity and engineered resistance of myeloid leukemia cells to BRD9 inhibition.

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA.
Watson School of Biological Sciences, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA.
Boehringer Ingelheim Regional Center Vienna GmbH and Company KG, Vienna, Austria.
Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA.
Department of Medical Genome Sciences, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Japan.


Here we show that acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells require the BRD9 subunit of the SWI-SNF chromatin-remodeling complex to sustain MYC transcription, rapid cell proliferation and a block in differentiation. Based on these observations, we derived small-molecule inhibitors of the BRD9 bromodomain that selectively suppress the proliferation of mouse and human AML cell lines. To establish these effects as on-target, we engineered a bromodomain-swap allele of BRD9 that retains functionality despite a radically altered bromodomain pocket. Expression of this allele in AML cells confers resistance to the antiproliferative effects of our compound series, thus establishing BRD9 as the relevant cellular target. Furthermore, we used an analogous domain-swap strategy to generate an inhibitor-resistant allele of EZH2. To our knowledge, our study provides the first evidence for a role of BRD9 in cancer and reveals a simple genetic strategy for constructing resistance alleles to demonstrate on-target activity of chemical probes in cells.

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Conflict of interest statement

This study was funded in part via a sponsored research agreement with Boerhinger Ingelheim.

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