Overexpression of HOXA/MEIS1/PBX3 homeobox genes is the hallmark of mixed lineage leukemia (MLL)-rearranged acute myeloid leukemia (AML). HOXA9 and MEIS1 are considered to be the most critical targets of MLL fusions and their coexpression rapidly induces AML. MEIS1 and PBX3 are not individually able to transform cells and were therefore hypothesized to function as cofactors of HOXA9. However, in this study, we demonstrate that coexpression of PBX3 and MEIS1 (PBX3/MEIS1), without ectopic expression of a HOX gene, is sufficient for transformation of normal mouse hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells in vitro. Moreover, PBX3/MEIS1 overexpression also caused AML in vivo, with a leukemic latency similar to that caused by forced expression of MLL-AF9, the most common form of MLL fusions. Furthermore, gene expression profiling of hematopoietic cells demonstrated that PBX3/ MEIS1 overexpression, but not HOXA9/MEIS1, HOXA9/PBX3, or HOXA9 overexpression, recapitulated the MLL-fusion-mediated core transcriptome, particularly upregulation of the endogenous Hoxa genes. Disruption of the binding between MEIS1 and PBX3 diminished PBX3/MEIS1-mediated cell transformation and HOX gene upregulation. Collectively, our studies strongly implicate the PBX3/MEIS1 interaction as a driver of cell transformation and leukemogenesis, and suggest that this axis may play a critical role in the regulation of the core transcriptional programs activated in MLL-rearranged and HOX-overexpressing AML. Therefore, targeting theMEIS1/PBX3 interaction may represent a promising therapeutic strategy to treat these AML subtypes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research