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Co-inhibition of HDAC and MLL-menin interaction targets MLL-rearranged acute myeloid leukemia cells via disruption of DNA damage checkpoint and DNA repair

Authors
  • Ye, Jing
  • Zha, Jie
  • Shi, Yuanfei
  • Li, Yin
  • Yuan, Delin
  • Chen, Qinwei
  • Lin, Fusheng
  • Fang, Zhihong
  • Yu, Yong
  • Dai, Yun
  • Xu, Bing
Type
Published Article
Journal
Clinical Epigenetics
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Oct 07, 2019
Volume
11
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1186/s13148-019-0723-0
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

While the aberrant translocation of the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene drives pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), it represents an independent predictor for poor prognosis of adult AML patients. Thus, small molecule inhibitors targeting menin-MLL fusion protein interaction have been emerging for the treatment of MLL-rearranged AML. As both inhibitors of histone deacetylase (HDAC) and menin-MLL interaction target the transcription-regulatory machinery involving epigenetic regulation of chromatin remodeling that governs the expression of genes involved in tumorigenesis, we hypothesized that these two classes of agents might interact to kill MLL-rearranged (MLL-r) AML cells. Here, we report that the combination treatment with subtoxic doses of the HDAC inhibitor chidamide and the menin-MLL interaction inhibitor MI-3 displayed a highly synergistic anti-tumor activity against human MLL-r AML cells in vitro and in vivo, but not those without this genetic aberration. Mechanistically, co-exposure to chidamide and MI-3 led to robust apoptosis in MLL-r AML cells, in association with loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and a sharp increase in ROS generation. Combined treatment also disrupted DNA damage checkpoint at the level of CHK1 and CHK2 kinases, rather than their upstream kinases (ATR and ATM), as well as DNA repair likely via homologous recombination (HR), but not non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). Genome-wide RNAseq revealed gene expression alterations involving several potential signaling pathways (e.g., cell cycle, DNA repair, MAPK, NF-κB) that might account for or contribute to the mechanisms of action underlying anti-leukemia activity of chidamide and MI-3 as a single agent and particularly in combination in MLL-r AML. Collectively, these findings provide a preclinical basis for further clinical investigation of this novel targeted strategy combining HDAC and Menin-MLL interaction inhibitors to improve therapeutic outcomes in a subset of patients with poor-prognostic MLL-r leukemia.

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