The t[(11;19)(p22;q23)] translocation, which gives rise to the MLL-ENL fusion protein, is commonly found in infant acute leukemias of both the myeloid and lymphoid lineage. To investigate the molecular mechanism of immortalization by MLL-ENL we established a Tet-regulatable system of MLL-ENL expression in primary hematopoietic progenitor cells. Immortalized myeloid cell lines were generated, which are dependent on continued MLL-ENL expression for their survival and proliferation. These cells either terminally differentiate or die when MLL-ENL expression is turned off with doxycycline. The expression profile of all 39 murine Hox genes was analyzed in these cells by real-time quantitative PCR. This analysis showed that loss of MLL-ENL was accompanied by a reduction in the expression of multiple Hoxa genes. By comparing these changes with Hox gene expression in cells induced to differentiate with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, we show for the first time that reduced Hox gene expression is specific to loss of MLL-ENL and is not a consequence of differentiation. Our data also suggest that the Hox cofactor Meis-2 can substitute for Meis-1 function. Thus, MLL-ENL is required to initiate and maintain immortalization of myeloid progenitors and may contribute to leukemogenesis by aberrantly sustaining the expression of a "Hox code" consisting of Hoxa4 to Hoxa11.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research