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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Hematology - Immunology - Molecular Biology

Transcriptional Activation of Prostate Specific Homeobox Gene NKX3-1 in Subsets of T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia (T-ALL)
Published: Friday, July 27, 2012
Author: Stefan Nagel et al.

by Stefan Nagel, Stefan Ehrentraut, Jürgen Tomasch, Stefan Lienenklaus, Björn Schneider, Robert Geffers, Corinna Meyer, Maren Kaufmann, Hans G. Drexler, Roderick A. F. MacLeod

Homeobox genes encode transcription factors impacting key developmental processes including embryogenesis, organogenesis, and cell differentiation. Reflecting their tight transcriptional control, homeobox genes are often embedded in large non-coding, cis-regulatory regions, containing tissue specific elements. In T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) homeobox genes are frequently deregulated by chromosomal aberrations, notably translocations adding T-cell specific activatory elements. NKX3-1 is a prostate specific homeobox gene activated in T-ALL patients expressing oncogenic TAL1 or displaying immature T-cell characteristics. After investigating regulation of NKX3-1 in primary cells and cell lines, we report its ectopic expression in T-ALL cells independent of chromosomal rearrangements. Using siRNAs and expression profiling, we exploited NKX3-1 positive T-ALL cell lines as tools to investigate aberrant activatory mechanisms. Our data confirmed NKX3-1 activation by TAL1/GATA3/LMO and identified LYL1 as an alternative activator in immature T-ALL cells devoid of GATA3. Moreover, we showed that NKX3-1 is directly activated by early T-cell homeodomain factor MSX2. These activators were regulated by MLL and/or by IL7-, BMP4- and IGF2-signalling. Finally, we demonstrated homeobox gene SIX6 as a direct leukemic target of NKX3-1 in T-ALL. In conclusion, we identified three major mechanisms of NKX3-1 regulation in T-ALL cell lines which are represented by activators TAL1, LYL1 and MSX2, corresponding to particular T-ALL subtypes described in patients. These results may contribute to the understanding of leukemic transcriptional networks underlying disturbed T-cell differentiation in T-ALL.
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