Prof Thomas Milne

Research Area: Cell and Molecular Biology
Technology Exchange: Bioinformatics and Cell sorting
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An added complication to understanding the molecular mechanisms of human disease is the potential for heritable changes in gene expression or chromosome stability to occur without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Such changes are referred to as "epigenetic". Epigenetic information is established by multiple mechanisms which include DNA methylation, non-coding RNA and the covalent modification of specific residues on histone proteins. It is becoming clear not only that epigenetic changes are common in many human diseases such as leukaemia, but that these changes by their very nature are malleable, and thus are amenable to therapeutic manipulation. The Mixed Lineage Leukaemia 1 (MLL1) protein is an example of an epigenetic protein that is crucially important for normal development but is also mutated in a subset of aggressive human leukaemias, thus providing a useful model to study the link between epigenetic cell memory and human disease. MLL1 controls gene activation in part through it's C terminal SET domain which methylates histone 3 specifically on lysine 4 (H3K4), and it also binds directly to this mark through it's third PHD finger domain. In the Milne lab, we use a range of techniques to study the molecular details of MLL1 mediated epigenetic regulation in human leukaemia and in normal haematopoiesis.

Name Department Institution Country
Prof Marella de Bruijn Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Doug Higgs FRS Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Paresh Vyas MRCP FRCP FRCPath Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Sten Eirik W Jacobsen Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Huimin Geng UCSF United States
Ari M. Melnick Cornell United States
Milne TA. 2017. Mouse models of MLL leukemia: recapitulating the human disease. Blood, 129 (16), pp. 2217-2223. | Show Abstract | Read more

Chromosome translocations involving the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene fuse it in frame with multiple partner genes creating novel fusion proteins (MLL-FPs) that cause aggressive acute leukemias in humans. Animal models of human disease are important for the exploration of underlying disease mechanisms as well as for testing novel therapeutic approaches. Patients carrying MLL-FPs have very few cooperating mutations, making MLL-FP driven leukemias ideal for animal modeling. The fact that the MLL-FP is the main driver mutation has allowed for a wide range of different experimental model systems designed to explore different aspects of MLL-FP leukemogenesis. In addition, MLL-FP driven acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in mice is often used as a general model for AML. This review provides an overview of different MLL-FP mouse model systems and discusses how well they have recapitulated aspects of the human disease as well as highlights the biological insights each model has provided into MLL-FP leukemogenesis. Many promising new drugs fail in the early stages of clinical trials. Lessons learned from past and present MLL-FP models may serve as a paradigm for designing more flexible and dynamic preclinical models for these as well as other acute leukemias.

Godfrey L, Kerry J, Thorne R, Repapi E, Davies JOJ, Tapia M, Ballabio E, Hughes JR, Geng H, Konopleva M, Milne TA. 2017. MLL-AF4 binds directly to a BCL-2 specific enhancer and modulates H3K27 acetylation. Exp Hematol, 47 pp. 64-75. | Show Abstract | Read more

Survival rates for children and adults carrying mutations in the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene continue to have a very poor prognosis. The most common MLL mutation in acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the t(4;11)(q21;q23) chromosome translocation that fuses MLL in-frame with the AF4 gene producing MLL-AF4 and AF4-MLL fusion proteins. Previously, we found that MLL-AF4 binds to the BCL-2 gene and directly activates it through DOT1L recruitment and increased H3K79me2/3 levels. In the study described here, we performed a detailed analysis of MLL-AF4 regulation of the entire BCL-2 family. By measuring nascent RNA production in MLL-AF4 knockdowns, we found that of all the BCL-2 family genes, MLL-AF4 directly controls the active transcription of both BCL-2 and MCL-1 and also represses BIM via binding of the polycomb group repressor 1 (PRC1) complex component CBX8. We further analyzed MLL-AF4 activation of the BCL-2 gene using Capture-C and identified a BCL-2-specific enhancer, consisting of two clusters of H3K27Ac at the 3' end of the gene. Loss of MLL-AF4 activity results in a reduction of H3K79me3 levels in the gene body and H3K27Ac levels at the 3' BCL-2 enhancer, revealing a novel regulatory link between these two histone marks and MLL-AF4-mediated activation of BCL-2.

Kerry J, Godfrey L, Repapi E, Tapia M, Blackledge NP, Ma H, Ballabio E, O'Byrne S, Ponthan F, Heidenreich O et al. 2017. MLL-AF4 Spreading Identifies Binding Sites that Are Distinct from Super-Enhancers and that Govern Sensitivity to DOT1L Inhibition in Leukemia. Cell Rep, 18 (2), pp. 482-495. | Show Abstract | Read more

Understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of defined cancers is crucial for effective personalized therapies. Translocations of the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene produce fusion proteins such as MLL-AF4 that disrupt epigenetic pathways and cause poor-prognosis leukemias. Here, we find that at a subset of gene targets, MLL-AF4 binding spreads into the gene body and is associated with the spreading of Menin binding, increased transcription, increased H3K79 methylation (H3K79me2/3), a disruption of normal H3K36me3 patterns, and unmethylated CpG regions in the gene body. Compared to other H3K79me2/3 marked genes, MLL-AF4 spreading gene expression is downregulated by inhibitors of the H3K79 methyltransferase DOT1L. This sensitivity mediates synergistic interactions with additional targeted drug treatments. Therefore, epigenetic spreading and enhanced susceptibility to epidrugs provides a potential marker for better understanding combination therapies in humans.

Lin S, Luo RT, Ptasinska A, Kerry J, Assi SA, Wunderlich M, Imamura T, Kaberlein JJ, Rayes A, Althoff MJ et al. 2016. Instructive Role of MLL-Fusion Proteins Revealed by a Model of t(4;11) Pro-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Cancer Cell, 30 (5), pp. 737-749. | Show Abstract | Read more

The t(4;11)(q21;q23) fuses mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) to AF4, the most common MLL-fusion partner. Here we show that MLL fused to murine Af4, highly conserved with human AF4, produces high-titer retrovirus permitting efficient transduction of human CD34+ cells, thereby generating a model of t(4;11) pro-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that fully recapitulates the immunophenotypic and molecular aspects of the disease. MLL-Af4 induces a B ALL distinct from MLL-AF9 through differential genomic target binding of the fusion proteins leading to specific gene expression patterns. MLL-Af4 cells can assume a myeloid state under environmental pressure but retain lymphoid-lineage potential. Such incongruity was also observed in t(4;11) patients in whom leukemia evaded CD19-directed therapy by undergoing myeloid-lineage switch. Our model provides a valuable tool to unravel the pathogenesis of MLL-AF4 leukemogenesis.

Stavropoulou V, Kaspar S, Brault L, Sanders MA, Juge S, Morettini S, Tzankov A, Iacovino M, Lau I-J, Milne TA et al. 2016. MLL-AF9 Expression in Hematopoietic Stem Cells Drives a Highly Invasive AML Expressing EMT-Related Genes Linked to Poor Outcome. Cancer Cell, 30 (1), pp. 43-58. | Show Abstract | Read more

To address the impact of cellular origin on acute myeloid leukemia (AML), we generated an inducible transgenic mouse model for MLL-AF9-driven leukemia. MLL-AF9 expression in long-term hematopoietic stem cells (LT-HSC) in vitro resulted in dispersed clonogenic growth and expression of genes involved in migration and invasion. In vivo, 20% LT-HSC-derived AML were particularly aggressive with extensive tissue infiltration, chemoresistance, and expressed genes related to epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in solid cancers. Knockdown of the EMT regulator ZEB1 significantly reduced leukemic blast invasion. By classifying mouse and human leukemias according to Evi1/EVI1 and Erg/ERG expression, reflecting aggressiveness and cell of origin, and performing comparative transcriptomics, we identified several EMT-related genes that were significantly associated with poor overall survival of AML patients.

Benito JM, Godfrey L, Kojima K, Hogdal L, Wunderlich M, Geng H, Marzo I, Harutyunyan KG, Golfman L, North P et al. 2015. MLL-Rearranged Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemias Activate BCL-2 through H3K79 Methylation and Are Sensitive to the BCL-2-Specific Antagonist ABT-199. Cell Rep, 13 (12), pp. 2715-2727. | Show Abstract | Read more

Targeted therapies designed to exploit specific molecular pathways in aggressive cancers are an exciting area of current research. Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) mutations such as the t(4;11) translocation cause aggressive leukemias that are refractory to conventional treatment. The t(4;11) translocation produces an MLL/AF4 fusion protein that activates key target genes through both epigenetic and transcriptional elongation mechanisms. In this study, we show that t(4;11) patient cells express high levels of BCL-2 and are highly sensitive to treatment with the BCL-2-specific BH3 mimetic ABT-199. We demonstrate that MLL/AF4 specifically upregulates the BCL-2 gene but not other BCL-2 family members via DOT1L-mediated H3K79me2/3. We use this information to show that a t(4;11) cell line is sensitive to a combination of ABT-199 and DOT1L inhibitors. In addition, ABT-199 synergizes with standard induction-type therapy in a xenotransplant model, advocating for the introduction of ABT-199 into therapeutic regimens for MLL-rearranged leukemias.

Thorne RMW, Milne TA. 2015. Dangerous liaisons: cooperation between Pbx3, Meis1 and Hoxa9 in leukemia. Haematologica, 100 (7), pp. 850-853. | Read more

Geng H, Hurtz C, Lenz KB, Chen Z, Baumjohann D, Thompson S, Goloviznina NA, Chen W-Y, Huan J, LaTocha D et al. 2015. Self-enforcing feedback activation between BCL6 and pre-B cell receptor signaling defines a distinct subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Cancer Cell, 27 (3), pp. 409-425. | Show Abstract | Read more

Studying 830 pre-B ALL cases from four clinical trials, we found that human ALL can be divided into two fundamentally distinct subtypes based on pre-BCR function. While absent in the majority of ALL cases, tonic pre-BCR signaling was found in 112 cases (13.5%). In these cases, tonic pre-BCR signaling induced activation of BCL6, which in turn increased pre-BCR signaling output at the transcriptional level. Interestingly, inhibition of pre-BCR-related tyrosine kinases reduced constitutive BCL6 expression and selectively killed patient-derived pre-BCR(+) ALL cells. These findings identify a genetically and phenotypically distinct subset of human ALL that critically depends on tonic pre-BCR signaling. In vivo treatment studies suggested that pre-BCR tyrosine kinase inhibitors are useful for the treatment of patients with pre-BCR(+) ALL.

Geng H, Hurtz C, Baumjohann D, Chen Z, Chen W-Y, Ballabio E, Xiao G, Lee J-W, Deucher A, Qi Z et al. 2014. Self-Enforcing Feedback Activation Between BCL6 and Tonic Pre-B Cell Receptor Signaling in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia BLOOD, 124 (21),

Milne TA. 2014. MLL5 expression as a biomarker for DNA hypermethylation and sensitivity to epigenetic therapy. Haematologica, 99 (9), pp. 1405-1407. | Read more

Ballabio E, Milne TA. 2014. Epigenetic control of gene expression in leukemogenesis: Cooperation between wild type MLL and MLL fusion proteins. Mol Cell Oncol, 1 (2), pp. e955330. | Show Abstract | Read more

Although there has been great progress in the treatment of human cancers, especially leukemias, many remain resistant to treatment. A major current focus is the development of so-called epigenetic drugs. Epigenetic states are stable enough to persist through multiple cell divisions, but by their very nature are reversible and thus are amenable to therapeutic manipulation. Exciting work in this area has produced a new breed of highly specific small molecules designed to inhibit epigenetic proteins, some of which have entered clinical trials. The current and future development of epigenetic drugs is greatly aided by highly detailed information about normal and aberrant epigenetic changes at the molecular level. In this review we focus on a class of aggressive acute leukemias caused by mutations in the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene. We provide an overview of how detailed molecular analysis of MLL leukemias has provided several early-stage epigenetic drugs and propose that further study of MLL leukemogenesis may continue to provide molecular details that potentially have a wider range of applications in human cancers.

Ballabio E, Geng H, Milne TA. 2013. Epigenetic Control of MLL Fusion Proteins ANNALS OF HEMATOLOGY, 92 pp. S51-S53.

Wilkinson AC, Ballabio E, Geng H, North P, Tapia M, Kerry J, Biswas D, Roeder RG, Allis CD, Melnick A et al. 2013. RUNX1 is a key target in t(4;11) leukemias that contributes to gene activation through an AF4-MLL complex interaction. Cell Rep, 3 (1), pp. 116-127. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) protein is an important epigenetic regulator required for the maintenance of gene activation during development. MLL chromosomal translocations produce novel fusion proteins that cause aggressive leukemias in humans. Individual MLL fusion proteins have distinct leukemic phenotypes even when expressed in the same cell type, but how this distinction is delineated on a molecular level is poorly understood. Here, we highlight a unique molecular mechanism whereby the RUNX1 gene is directly activated by MLL-AF4 and the RUNX1 protein interacts with the product of the reciprocal AF4-MLL translocation. These results support a mechanism of transformation whereby two oncogenic fusion proteins cooperate by activating a target gene and then modulating the function of its downstream product.

Geng H, Brennan S, Milne TA, Chen W-Y, Li Y, Hurtz C, Kweon S-M, Zickl L, Shojaee S, Neuberg D et al. 2012. Integrative epigenomic analysis identifies biomarkers and therapeutic targets in adult B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Cancer Discov, 2 (11), pp. 1004-1023. | Show Abstract | Read more

UNLABELLED: Genetic lesions such as BCR-ABL1, E2A-PBX1, and MLL rearrangements (MLLr) are associated with unfavorable outcomes in adult B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Leukemia oncoproteins may directly or indirectly disrupt cytosine methylation patterning to mediate the malignant phenotype. We postulated that DNA methylation signatures in these aggressive B-ALLs would point toward disease mechanisms and useful biomarkers and therapeutic targets. We therefore conducted DNA methylation and gene expression profiling on a cohort of 215 adult patients with B-ALL enrolled in a single phase III clinical trial (ECOG E2993) and normal control B cells. In BCR-ABL1-positive B-ALLs, aberrant cytosine methylation patterning centered around a cytokine network defined by hypomethylation and overexpression of IL2RA(CD25). The E2993 trial clinical data showed that CD25 expression was strongly associated with a poor outcome in patients with ALL regardless of BCR-ABL1 status, suggesting CD25 as a novel prognostic biomarker for risk stratification in B-ALLs. In E2A-PBX1-positive B-ALLs, aberrant DNA methylation patterning was strongly associated with direct fusion protein binding as shown by the E2A-PBX1 chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) sequencing (ChIP-seq), suggesting that E2A-PBX1 fusion protein directly remodels the epigenome to impose an aggressive B-ALL phenotype. MLLr B-ALL featured prominent cytosine hypomethylation, which was linked with MLL fusion protein binding, H3K79 dimethylation, and transcriptional upregulation, affecting a set of known and newly identified MLL fusion direct targets with oncogenic activity such as FLT3 and BCL6. Notably, BCL6 blockade or loss of function suppressed proliferation and survival of MLLr leukemia cells, suggesting BCL6-targeted therapy as a new therapeutic strategy for MLLr B-ALLs. SIGNIFICANCE: We conducted the first integrative epigenomic study in adult B-ALLs, as a correlative study to the ECOG E2993 phase III clinical trial. This study links for the first time the direct actions of oncogenic fusion proteins with disruption of epigenetic regulation mediated by cytosine methylation. We identify a novel clinically actionable biomarker in B-ALLs: IL2RA (CD25), which is linked with BCR-ABL1 and an inflammatory signaling network associated with chemotherapy resistance. We show that BCL6 is a novel MLL fusion protein target that is required to maintain the proliferation and survival of primary human adult MLLr cells and provide the basis for a clinical trial with BCL6 inhibitors for patients with MLLr.

Kowalczyk MS, Hughes JR, Garrick D, Lynch MD, Sharpe JA, Sloane-Stanley JA, McGowan SJ, De Gobbi M, Hosseini M, Vernimmen D et al. 2012. Intragenic enhancers act as alternative promoters. Mol Cell, 45 (4), pp. 447-458. | Show Abstract | Read more

A substantial amount of organismal complexity is thought to be encoded by enhancers which specify the location, timing, and levels of gene expression. In mammals there are more enhancers than promoters which are distributed both between and within genes. Here we show that activated, intragenic enhancers frequently act as alternative tissue-specific promoters producing a class of abundant, spliced, multiexonic poly(A)(+) RNAs (meRNAs) which reflect the host gene's structure. meRNAs make a substantial and unanticipated contribution to the complexity of the transcriptome, appearing as alternative isoforms of the host gene. The low protein-coding potential of meRNAs suggests that many meRNAs may be byproducts of enhancer activation or underlie as-yet-unidentified RNA-encoded functions. Distinguishing between meRNAs and mRNAs will transform our interpretation of dynamic changes in transcription both at the level of individual genes and of the genome as a whole.

Ballabio E, Milne TA. 2012. Molecular and Epigenetic Mechanisms of MLL in Human Leukemogenesis. Cancers (Basel), 4 (3), pp. 904-944. | Show Abstract | Read more

Epigenetics is often defined as the study of heritable changes in gene expression or chromosome stability that don't alter the underlying DNA sequence. Epigenetic changes are established through multiple mechanisms that include DNA methylation, non-coding RNAs and the covalent modification of specific residues on histone proteins. It is becoming clear not only that aberrant epigenetic changes are common in many human diseases such as leukemia, but that these changes by their very nature are malleable, and thus are amenable to treatment. Epigenetic based therapies have so far focused on the use of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors and DNA methyltransferase inhibitors, which tend to have more general and widespread effects on gene regulation in the cell. However, if a unique molecular pathway can be identified, diseases caused by epigenetic mechanisms are excellent candidates for the development of more targeted therapies that focus on specific gene targets, individual binding domains, or specific enzymatic activities. Designing effective targeted therapies depends on a clear understanding of the role of epigenetic mutations during disease progression. The Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) protein is an example of a developmentally important protein that controls the epigenetic activation of gene targets in part by methylating histone 3 on lysine 4. MLL is required for normal development, but is also mutated in a subset of aggressive human leukemias and thus provides a useful model for studying the link between epigenetic cell memory and human disease. The most common MLL mutations are chromosome translocations that fuse the MLL gene in frame with partner genes creating novel fusion proteins. In this review, we summarize recent work that argues MLL fusion proteins could function through a single molecular pathway, but we also highlight important data that suggests instead that multiple independent mechanisms underlie MLL mediated leukemogenesis.

Akalin A, Garrett-Bakelman FE, Kormaksson M, Busuttil J, Zhang L, Khrebtukova I, Milne TA, Huang Y, Biswas D, Hess JL et al. 2012. Base-pair resolution DNA methylation sequencing reveals profoundly divergent epigenetic landscapes in acute myeloid leukemia. PLoS Genet, 8 (6), pp. e1002781. | Show Abstract | Read more

We have developed an enhanced form of reduced representation bisulfite sequencing with extended genomic coverage, which resulted in greater capture of DNA methylation information of regions lying outside of traditional CpG islands. Applying this method to primary human bone marrow specimens from patients with Acute Myelogeneous Leukemia (AML), we demonstrated that genetically distinct AML subtypes display diametrically opposed DNA methylation patterns. As compared to normal controls, we observed widespread hypermethylation in IDH mutant AMLs, preferentially targeting promoter regions and CpG islands neighboring the transcription start sites of genes. In contrast, AMLs harboring translocations affecting the MLL gene displayed extensive loss of methylation of an almost mutually exclusive set of CpGs, which instead affected introns and distal intergenic CpG islands and shores. When analyzed in conjunction with gene expression profiles, it became apparent that these specific patterns of DNA methylation result in differing roles in gene expression regulation. However, despite this subtype-specific DNA methylation patterning, a much smaller set of CpG sites are consistently affected in both AML subtypes. Most CpG sites in this common core of aberrantly methylated CpGs were hypermethylated in both AML subtypes. Therefore, aberrant DNA methylation patterns in AML do not occur in a stereotypical manner but rather are highly specific and associated with specific driving genetic lesions.

Cited:

26

Scopus

Geng H, Brennan S, Milne TA, Chen WY, Li Y, Hurtz C, Kweon SM, Zickl L, Shojaee S, Neuberg D et al. 2012. Integrative epigenomic analysis identifies biomarkers and therapeutic targets in adult B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia Cancer Discovery, 2 (11), pp. 1006-1024. | Show Abstract | Read more

Genetic lesions such as BCR-ABL1, E2A-PBX1, and MLL rearrangements (MLLr) are associated with unfavorable outcomes in adult B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Leukemia oncoproteins may directly or indirectly disrupt cytosine methylation patterning to mediate the malignant phenotype. We postulated that DNA methylation signatures in these aggressive B-ALLs would point toward disease mechanisms and useful biomarkers and therapeutic targets. We therefore conducted DNA methylation and gene expression profiling on a cohort of 215 adult patients with B-ALL enrolled in a single phase III clinical trial (ECOG E2993) and normal control B cells. In BCR-ABL1 -positive B-ALLs, aberrant cytosine methylation patterning centered around a cytokine network defined by hypomethylation and overexpression of IL2RA (CD25). The E2993 trial clinical data showed that CD25 expression was strongly associated with a poor outcome in patients with ALL regardless of BCR-ABL1 status, suggesting CD25 as a novel prognostic biomarker for risk stratification in B-ALLs. In E2A-PBX1 -positive B-ALLs, aberrant DNA methylation patterning was strongly associated with direct fusion protein binding as shown by the E2A-PBX1 chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) sequencing (ChIP-seq), suggesting that E2A-PBX1 fusion protein directly remodels the epigenome to impose an aggressive B-ALL phenotype. MLL r B-ALL featured prominent cytosine hypomethylation, which was linked with MLL fusion protein binding, H3K79 dimethylation, and transcriptional upregulation, affecting a set of known and newly identified MLL fusion direct targets with oncogenic activity such as FLT3 and BCL6. Notably, BCL6 blockade or loss of function suppressed proliferation and survival of MLL r leukemia cells, suggesting BCL6-targeted therapy as a new therapeutic strategy for MLL r B-ALLs. SIGNIFICANCE: We conducted the first integrative epigenomic study in adult B-ALLs, as a correlative study to the ECOG E2993 phase III clinical trial. This study links for the first time the direct actions of oncogenic fusion proteins with disruption of epigenetic regulation mediated by cytosine methylation. We identify a novel clinically actionable biomarker in B-ALLs: IL2RA (CD25), which is linked with BCR- ABL1 and an inflammatory signaling network associated with chemotherapy resistance. We show that BCL6 is a novel MLL fusion protein target that is required to maintain the proliferation and survivalf primary human adult MLLr cells and provide the basis for a clinical trial with BCL6 inhibitors for patients with MLLr. © 2012 American Association for Cancer Research.

Biswas D, Milne TA, Basrur V, Kim J, Elenitoba-Johnson KSJ, Allis CD, Roeder RG. 2011. Function of leukemogenic mixed lineage leukemia 1 (MLL) fusion proteins through distinct partner protein complexes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 108 (38), pp. 15751-15756. | Show Abstract | Read more

A number of acute leukemias arise from fusion of the mixed lineage leukemia 1 protein (MLL) N terminus to a variety of fusion partners that have been reported to reside in one or more poorly defined complexes linked to transcription elongation through interactions with the histone H3-K79 methyltransferase DOT1 and positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb). Here we first identify natural complexes (purified through fusion partners AF9, AF4, and ELL) with overlapping components, different elongation activities, and different cofactor associations that suggest dynamic interactions. Then, through reconstitution of defined, functionally active minimal complexes, we identify stable subcomplexes that, through newly defined protein-protein interactions, form distinct higher order complexes. These definitive analyses show, for example, that (i) through direct interactions with AF9 and cyclinT1, family members AF4 and AFF4 independently mediate association of P-TEFb with AF9, (ii) P-TEFb, through direct interactions, provides the link for association of ELL and ELL-associated factors 1 and 2 (EAF1 and EAF2) with AF4, and (iii) in the absence of other factors, DOT1 forms a stable complex with AF9 and does not interact with AF9•AF4•P-TEFb complexes. Finally, we show the importance of defined higher order complex formation in MLL-AF9-mediated transcriptional up-regulation and cell immortalization potential in vivo. Thus, our study provides direct mechanistic insight into the role of fusion partners in MLL fusion-mediated leukemogenesis.

Ruthenburg AJ, Li H, Milne TA, Dewell S, McGinty RK, Yuen M, Ueberheide B, Dou Y, Muir TW, Patel DJ, Allis CD. 2011. Recognition of a mononucleosomal histone modification pattern by BPTF via multivalent interactions. Cell, 145 (5), pp. 692-706. | Show Abstract | Read more

Little is known about how combinations of histone marks are interpreted at the level of nucleosomes. The second PHD finger of human BPTF is known to specifically recognize histone H3 when methylated on lysine 4 (H3K4me2/3). Here, we examine how additional heterotypic modifications influence BPTF binding. Using peptide surrogates, three acetyllysine ligands are indentified for a PHD-adjacent bromodomain in BPTF via systematic screening and biophysical characterization. Although the bromodomain displays limited discrimination among the three possible acetyllysines at the peptide level, marked selectivity is observed for only one of these sites, H4K16ac, in combination with H3K4me3 at the mononucleosome level. In support, these two histone marks constitute a unique trans-histone modification pattern that unambiguously resides within a single nucleosomal unit in human cells, and this module colocalizes with these marks in the genome. Together, our data call attention to nucleosomal patterning of covalent marks in dictating critical chromatin associations.

Milne TA, Kim J, Wang GG, Stadler SC, Basrur V, Whitcomb SJ, Wang Z, Ruthenburg AJ, Elenitoba-Johnson KSJ, Roeder RG, Allis CD. 2010. Multiple interactions recruit MLL1 and MLL1 fusion proteins to the HOXA9 locus in leukemogenesis. Mol Cell, 38 (6), pp. 853-863. | Show Abstract | Read more

MLL1 fusion proteins activate HoxA9 gene expression and cause aggressive leukemias that respond poorly to treatment, but how they recognize and stably bind to HoxA9 is not clearly understood. In a systematic analysis of MLL1 domain recruitment activity, we identified an essential MLL1 recruitment domain that includes the CXXC domain and PHD fingers and is controlled by direct interactions with the PAF elongation complex and H3K4Me2/3. MLL1 fusion proteins lack the PHD fingers and require prebinding of a wild-type MLL1 complex and CXXC domain recognition of DNA for stable HoxA9 association. Together, these results suggest that specific recruitment of MLL1 requires multiple interactions and is a precondition for stable recruitment of MLL1 fusion proteins to HoxA9 in leukemogenesis. Since wild-type MLL1 and oncogenic MLL1 fusion proteins have overlapping yet distinct recruitment mechanisms, this creates a window of opportunity that could be exploited for the development of targeted therapies.

Wang Z, Song J, Milne TA, Wang GG, Li H, Allis CD, Patel DJ. 2010. Pro isomerization in MLL1 PHD3-bromo cassette connects H3K4me readout to CyP33 and HDAC-mediated repression. Cell, 141 (7), pp. 1183-1194. | Show Abstract | Read more

The MLL1 gene is a frequent target for recurrent chromosomal translocations, resulting in transformation of hematopoietic precursors into leukemia stem cells. Here, we report on structure-function studies that elucidate molecular events in MLL1 binding of histone H3K4me3/2 marks and recruitment of the cyclophilin CyP33. CyP33 contains a PPIase and a RRM domain and regulates MLL1 function through HDAC recruitment. We find that the PPIase domain of CyP33 regulates the conformation of MLL1 through proline isomerization within the PHD3-Bromo linker, thereby disrupting the PHD3-Bromo interface and facilitating binding of the MLL1-PHD3 domain to the CyP33-RRM domain. H3K4me3/2 and CyP33-RRM target different surfaces of MLL1-PHD3 and can bind simultaneously to form a ternary complex. Furthermore, the MLL1-CyP33 interaction is required for repression of HOXA9 and HOXC8 genes in vivo. Our results highlight the role of PHD3-Bromo cassette as a regulatory platform, orchestrating MLL1 binding of H3K4me3/2 marks and cyclophilin-mediated repression through HDAC recruitment.

Milne TA, Kim J, Wang GG, Stadler SC, Basrur V, Whitcomb SJ, Wang Z, Ruthenburg AJ, Elenitoba-Johnson KSJ, Roeder RG, Allis CD. 2010. Multiple Interactions Recruit MLL1 and MLL1 Fusion Proteins to the HOXA9 Locus in Leukemogenesis Molecular Cell,

Ferris AL, Wu X, Hughes CM, Stewart C, Smith SJ, Milne TA, Wang GG, Shun M-C, Allis CD, Engelman A, Hughes SH. 2010. Lens epithelium-derived growth factor fusion proteins redirect HIV-1 DNA integration. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 107 (7), pp. 3135-3140. | Show Abstract | Read more

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF) fusion proteins can direct HIV-1 DNA integration to novel sites in the host genome. The C terminus of LEDGF contains an integrase binding domain (IBD), and the N terminus binds chromatin. LEDGF normally directs integrations to the bodies of expressed genes. Replacing the N terminus of LEDGF with chromatin binding domains (CBDs) from other proteins changes the specificity of HIV-1 DNA integration. We chose two well-characterized CBDs: the plant homeodomain (PHD) finger from ING2 and the chromodomain from heterochromatin binding protein 1alpha (HP1alpha). The ING2 PHD finger binds H3K4me3, a histone mark that is associated with the transcriptional start sites of expressed genes. The HP1alpha chromodomain binds H3K9me2,3, histone marks that are widely distributed throughout the genome. A fusion protein in which the ING2 PHD finger was linked to the LEDGF IBD directed integrations near the start sites of expressed genes. A similar fusion protein in which the HP1alpha chromodomain was linked to the LEDGF IBD directed integrations to sites that differed from both the PHD finger fusion-directed and LEDGF-directed integration sites. The ability to redirect HIV-1 DNA integration may help solve the problems associated with the activation of oncogenes when retroviruses are used in gene therapy.

Hunter RG, McCarthy KJ, Milne TA, Pfaff DW, McEwen BS. 2009. Regulation of hippocampal H3 histone methylation by acute and chronic stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 106 (49), pp. 20912-20917. | Show Abstract | Read more

The hippocampal formation is a brain region noted for its plasticity in response to stressful events and adrenal steroid hormones. Recent work has shown that chromatin remodeling in various brain regions, including the hippocampus, is associated with the effects of stress in a variety of models. We chose to examine the effects of stress, stress duration, corticosterone administration, and fluoxetine treatment on the levels of hippocampal histone H3 methylation at lysines 4, 9, and 27, marks associated, respectively, with active transcription, heterochromatin formation, and transcriptional repression. We found that acute stress increased the levels of H3K9 tri-methylation (H3K9me3) in the dentate gyrus (DG) and CA1, while it reduced levels of H3K9 mono-methylation (H3K9me1) and H3K27 tri-methylation (H3K27me3) in the same regions, and had no effect on levels of H3K4 tri-methylation (H3K4me3). Seven days of restraint stress reduced levels of H3K4me3 in the CA1 and H3K27me3 in the DG and CA1, while increasing basal levels of H3K9me3. Chronic restraint stress (CRS) for 21 days mildly increased levels of H3K4me3 and reduced H3K9me3 levels in the DG. Treatment with fluoxetine during CRS reversed the decrease in DG H3K9me3, but had no effect on the other marks. These results show a complex, surprisingly rapid, and regionally specific pattern of chromatin remodeling within hippocampus produced by stress and anti-depressant treatment that may open an avenue of understanding the interplay of stress and hippocampal gene expression, and reveal the outlines of a potential chromatin stress response that may be diminished or degraded by chronic stress.

Kim J, Guermah M, McGinty RK, Lee J-S, Tang Z, Milne TA, Shilatifard A, Muir TW, Roeder RG. 2009. RAD6-Mediated transcription-coupled H2B ubiquitylation directly stimulates H3K4 methylation in human cells. Cell, 137 (3), pp. 459-471. | Show Abstract | Read more

H2B ubiquitylation has been implicated in active transcription but is not well understood in mammalian cells. Beyond earlier identification of hBRE1 as the E3 ligase for H2B ubiquitylation in human cells, we now show (1) that hRAD6 serves as the cognate E2-conjugating enzyme; (2) that hRAD6, through direct interaction with hPAF-bound hBRE1, is recruited to transcribed genes and ubiquitylates chromatinized H2B at lysine 120; (3) that hPAF-mediated transcription is required for efficient H2B ubiquitylation as a result of hPAF-dependent recruitment of hBRE1-hRAD6 to the Pol II transcription machinery; (4) that H2B ubiquitylation per se does not affect the level of hPAF-, SII-, and p300-dependent transcription and likely functions downstream; and (5) that H2B ubiquitylation directly stimulates hSET1-dependent H3K4 di- and trimethylation. These studies establish the natural H2B ubiquitylation factors in human cells and also detail the mechanistic basis for H2B ubiquitylation and function during transcription.

Milne TA, Zhao K, Hess JL. 2009. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) for analysis of histone modifications and chromatin-associated proteins. Methods Mol Biol, 538 pp. 409-423. | Show Abstract | Read more

Disruption of epigenetic regulators of transcription is a central mechanism of oncogenesis. Many of the advances in the understanding of these mechanisms are attributable to the successful development of chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) for in vivo detection of histone modifications as well as chromatin binding regulatory proteins. This is a powerful technique for analyzing histone modifications as well as binding sites for proteins that bind either directly or indirectly to DNA. Here we present two ChIP protocols. The first is particularly useful for identifying histone modifications or binding at specific, known genomic sites. The second, employing serial analysis of gene expression, is particularly powerful for the discovery of previously unidentified sites of modification or binding.

Caslini C, Yang Z, El-Osta M, Milne TA, Slany RK, Hess JL. 2007. Interaction of MLL amino terminal sequences with menin is required for transformation. Cancer Res, 67 (15), pp. 7275-7283. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rearrangements of the mixed lineage leukemia gene MLL are associated with aggressive lymphoid and myeloid leukemias. The resulting MLL fusion proteins enforce high-level expression of HOX genes and the HOX cofactor MEIS1, which is pivotal for leukemogenesis. Both wild-type MLL and MLL fusion proteins interact with the tumor suppressor menin and with the Hoxa9 locus in vivo. Here, we show that MLL sequences between amino acids 5 and 44 are required for interaction with menin and for the transformation of hematopoietic progenitors. Blocking the MLL-menin interaction by the expression of a dominant negative inhibitor composed of amino terminal MLL sequences down-regulates Meis1 expression and inhibits cell proliferation, suggesting that targeting this interaction may be an effective therapeutic strategy for leukemias with MLL rearrangements.

Dou Y, Milne TA, Ruthenburg AJ, Lee S, Lee JW, Verdine GL, Allis CD, Roeder RG. 2006. Regulation of MLL1 H3K4 methyltransferase activity by its core components. Nat Struct Mol Biol, 13 (8), pp. 713-719. | Show Abstract | Read more

Histone H3 Lys4 (H3K4) methylation is a prevalent mark associated with transcription activation. A common feature of several H3K4 methyltransferase complexes is the presence of three structural components (RbBP5, Ash2L and WDR5) and a catalytic subunit containing a SET domain. Here we report the first biochemical reconstitution of a functional four-component mixed-lineage leukemia protein-1 (MLL1) core complex. This reconstitution, combined with in vivo assays, allows direct analysis of the contribution of each component to MLL1 enzymatic activity and their roles in transcriptional regulation. Moreover, taking clues from a crystal structure analysis, we demonstrate that WDR5 mediates interactions of the MLL1 catalytic unit both with the common structural platform and with the histone substrate. Mechanistic insights gained from this study can be generalized to the whole family of SET1-like histone methyltransferases in mammals.

Wysocka J, Swigut T, Xiao H, Milne TA, Kwon SY, Landry J, Kauer M, Tackett AJ, Chait BT, Badenhorst P et al. 2006. A PHD finger of NURF couples histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation with chromatin remodelling. Nature, 442 (7098), pp. 86-90. | Show Abstract | Read more

Lysine methylation of histones is recognized as an important component of an epigenetic indexing system demarcating transcriptionally active and inactive chromatin domains. Trimethylation of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) marks transcription start sites of virtually all active genes. Recently, we reported that the WD40-repeat protein WDR5 is important for global levels of H3K4me3 and control of HOX gene expression. Here we show that a plant homeodomain (PHD) finger of nucleosome remodelling factor (NURF), an ISWI-containing ATP-dependent chromatin-remodelling complex, mediates a direct preferential association with H3K4me3 tails. Depletion of H3K4me3 causes partial release of the NURF subunit, BPTF (bromodomain and PHD finger transcription factor), from chromatin and defective recruitment of the associated ATPase, SNF2L (also known as ISWI and SMARCA1), to the HOXC8 promoter. Loss of BPTF in Xenopus embryos mimics WDR5 loss-of-function phenotypes, and compromises spatial control of Hox gene expression. These results strongly suggest that WDR5 and NURF function in a common biological pathway in vivo, and that NURF-mediated ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling is directly coupled to H3K4 trimethylation to maintain Hox gene expression patterns during development. We also identify a previously unknown function for the PHD finger as a highly specialized methyl-lysine-binding domain.

Milne TA, Martin ME, Brock HW, Slany RK, Hess JL. 2005. Leukemogenic MLL fusion proteins bind across a broad region of the Hox a9 locus, promoting transcription and multiple histone modifications. Cancer Res, 65 (24), pp. 11367-11374. | Show Abstract | Read more

Chromosome translocations involving the mixed lineage leukemia gene MLL are associated with aggressive acute leukemias in both children and adults. Leukemogenic MLL fusion proteins delete the MLL SET domain Lys(4) methyltransferase activity and fuse MLL to 1 of >40 different translocation partners. Some MLL fusion proteins involve nuclear proteins that are transcriptional activators, whereas others have transcriptional activating activity but instead dimerize the truncated MLL molecule. Both types of MLL fusion proteins enforce persistent expression of Hox a9 and Meis1, which is pivotal for leukemogenesis through mechanisms that remain obscure. Here, we show that nuclear and dimerizable forms of MLL bind with a similar pattern to the Hox a9 locus that overlaps the distribution of wild-type MLL and deregulate transcription of three isoforms of Hox a9. Induction of MLL fusion protein activity is associated with increased levels of histone acetylation and Lys(4) methylation at Hox target genes. In addition, the MLL-ENL-ER protein, but not dimerized MLL, also induces dimethylation of histone H3 at Lys(79), suggesting alternative mechanisms for transcriptional activation.

Milne TA, Dou Y, Martin ME, Brock HW, Roeder RG, Hess JL. 2005. MLL associates specifically with a subset of transcriptionally active target genes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 102 (41), pp. 14765-14770. | Show Abstract | Read more

MLL (mixed-lineage leukemia) is a histone H3 Lys-4 specific methyltransferase that is a positive regulator of Hox expression. MLL rearrangements and amplification are common in acute lymphoid and myeloid leukemias and myelodysplastic disorders and are associated with abnormal up-regulation of Hox gene expression. Although MLL is expressed throughout hematopoiesis, Hox gene expression is sharply down-regulated during differentiation, suggesting that either the activity of MLL or its association with target promoters must be regulated. Here we show that MLL associates with actively transcribed genes but does not remain bound after transcriptional down-regulation. Surprisingly, MLL is associated not only with promoter regions but also is distributed across the entire coding regions of genes. MLL interacts with RNA polymerase II (pol II) and colocalizes with RNA pol II at a subset of actively transcribed target in vivo. Loss of function Mll results in defects in RNA pol II distribution. Together the results suggest that an intimate association between MLL and RNA pol II occurs at MLL target genes in vivo that is required for normal initiation and/or transcriptional elongation.

Wysocka J, Swigut T, Milne TA, Dou Y, Zhang X, Burlingame AL, Roeder RG, Brivanlou AH, Allis CD. 2005. WDR5 associates with histone H3 methylated at K4 and is essential for H3 K4 methylation and vertebrate development. Cell, 121 (6), pp. 859-872. | Show Abstract | Read more

Histone H3 lysine 4 (K4) methylation has been linked to the transcriptional activation in a variety of eukaryotic species. Here we show that a common component of MLL1, MLL2, and hSet1 H3 K4 methyltransferase complexes, the WD40-repeat protein WDR5, directly associates with histone H3 di- and trimethylated at K4 and with H3-K4-dimethylated nucleosomes. WDR5 is required for binding of the methyltransferase complex to the K4-dimethylated H3 tail as well as for global H3 K4 trimethylation and HOX gene activation in human cells. WDR5 is essential for vertebrate development, in that WDR5-depleted X. laevis tadpoles exhibit a variety of developmental defects and abnormal spatial Hox gene expression. Our results are the first demonstration that a WD40-repeat protein acts as a module for recognition of a specific histone modification and suggest a mechanism for reading and writing an epigenetic mark for gene activation.

Dou Y, Milne TA, Tackett AJ, Smith ER, Fukuda A, Wysocka J, Allis CD, Chait BT, Hess JL, Roeder RG. 2005. Physical association and coordinate function of the H3 K4 methyltransferase MLL1 and the H4 K16 acetyltransferase MOF. Cell, 121 (6), pp. 873-885. | Show Abstract | Read more

A stable complex containing MLL1 and MOF has been immunoaffinity purified from a human cell line that stably expresses an epitope-tagged WDR5 subunit. Stable interactions between MLL1 and MOF were confirmed by reciprocal immunoprecipitation, cosedimentation, and cotransfection analyses, and interaction sites were mapped to MLL1 C-terminal and MOF zinc finger domains. The purified complex has a robust MLL1-mediated histone methyltransferase activity that can effect mono-, di-, and trimethylation of H3 K4 and a MOF-mediated histone acetyltransferase activity that is specific for H4 K16. Importantly, both activities are required for optimal transcription activation on a chromatin template in vitro and on an endogenous MLL1 target gene, Hox a9, in vivo. These results indicate an activator-based mechanism for joint MLL1 and MOF recruitment and targeted methylation and acetylation and provide a molecular explanation for the closely correlated distribution of H3 K4 methylation and H4 K16 acetylation on active genes.

Milne TA, Hughes CM, Lloyd R, Yang Z, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Dou Y, Schnepp RW, Krankel C, Livolsi VA, Gibbs D et al. 2005. Menin and MLL cooperatively regulate expression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 102 (3), pp. 749-754. | Show Abstract | Read more

Mutations in the MEN1 gene are associated with the multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 1 (MEN1), which is characterized by parathyroid hyperplasia and tumors of the pituitary and pancreatic islets. The mechanism by which MEN1 acts as a tumor suppressor is unclear. We have recently shown that menin, the MEN1 protein product, interacts with mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) family proteins in a histone methyltransferase complex including Ash2, Rbbp5, and WDR5. Here, we show that menin directly regulates expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p27Kip1 and p18Ink4c. Menin activates transcription by means of a mechanism involving recruitment of MLL to the p27Kip1 and p18Ink4c promoters and coding regions. Loss of function of either MLL or menin results in down-regulation of p27Kip1 and p18Ink4c expression and deregulated cell growth. These findings suggest that regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor transcription by cooperative interaction between menin and MLL plays a central role in menin's activity as a tumor suppressor.

Wysocka J, Milne TA, Allis CD. 2005. Taking LSD 1 to a new high. Cell, 122 (5), pp. 654-658. | Show Abstract | Read more

Histone modifications mediate changes in gene expression by altering the underlying chromatin structure or by serving as a binding platform to recruit other proteins. One such modification, histone methylation, was thought to be irreversible until last year when Shi and co-workers broke new ground with their discovery of a lysine-specific histone demethylase (LSD 1). They showed that LSD 1, a nuclear amine oxidase homolog, is a bona fide histone H3 lysine 4 demethylase (Shi et al., 2004). Now, a new study from published in a recent issue of Molecular Cell, together with two studies recently published by and in Nature, reveal that LSD 1's specificity and activity is in fact regulated by associated protein cofactors.

Zeisig BB, Milne T, García-Cuéllar M-P, Schreiner S, Martin M-E, Fuchs U, Borkhardt A, Chanda SK, Walker J, Soden R et al. 2004. Hoxa9 and Meis1 are key targets for MLL-ENL-mediated cellular immortalization. Mol Cell Biol, 24 (2), pp. 617-628. | Show Abstract | Read more

MLL fusion proteins are oncogenic transcription factors that are associated with aggressive lymphoid and myeloid leukemias. We constructed an inducible MLL fusion, MLL-ENL-ERtm, that rendered the transcriptional and transforming properties of MLL-ENL strictly dependent on the presence of 4-hydroxy-tamoxifen. MLL-ENL-ERtm-immortalized hematopoietic cells required 4-hydroxy-tamoxifen for continuous growth and differentiated terminally upon tamoxifen withdrawal. Microarray analysis performed on these conditionally transformed cells revealed Hoxa9 and Hoxa7 as well as the Hox coregulators Meis1 and Pbx3 among the targets upregulated by MLL-ENL-ERtm. Overexpression of the Hox repressor Bmi-1 inhibited the growth-transforming activity of MLL-ENL. Moreover, the enforced expression of Hoxa9 in combination with Meis1 was sufficient to substitute for MLL-ENL-ERtm function and to maintain a state of continuous proliferation and differentiation arrest. These results suggest that MLL fusion proteins impose a reversible block on myeloid differentiation through aberrant activation of a limited set of homeobox genes and Hox coregulators that are consistently expressed in MLL-associated leukemias.

Hughes CM, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Milne TA, Copeland TD, Levine SS, Lee JC, Hayes DN, Shanmugam KS, Bhattacharjee A, Biondi CA et al. 2004. Menin associates with a trithorax family histone methyltransferase complex and with the hoxc8 locus. Mol Cell, 13 (4), pp. 587-597. | Show Abstract | Read more

The cellular function of the menin tumor suppressor protein, product of the MEN1 gene mutated in familial multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, has not been defined. We now show that menin is associated with a histone methyltransferase complex containing two trithorax family proteins, MLL2 and Ash2L, and other homologs of the yeast Set1 assembly. This menin-associated complex methylates histone H3 on lysine 4. A subset of tumor-derived menin mutants lacks the associated histone methyltransferase activity. In addition, menin is associated with RNA polymerase II whose large subunit carboxyl-terminal domain is phosphorylated on Ser 5. Men1 knockout embryos and cells show decreased expression of the homeobox genes Hoxc6 and Hoxc8. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments reveal that menin is bound to the Hoxc8 locus. These results suggest that menin activates the transcription of differentiation-regulating genes by covalent histone modification, and that this activity is related to tumor suppression by MEN1.

Martin ME, Milne TA, Bloyer S, Galoian K, Shen W, Gibbs D, Brock HW, Slany R, Hess JL. 2003. Dimerization of MLL fusion proteins immortalizes hematopoietic cells. Cancer Cell, 4 (3), pp. 197-207. | Show Abstract | Read more

MLL fusion proteins are leukemogenic, but their mechanism is unclear. Induced dimerization of a truncated MLL immortalizes bone marrow and imposes a reversible block on myeloid differentiation associated with upregulation of Hox a7, a9, and Meis1. Both dimerized MLL and exon-duplicated MLL are potent transcriptional activators, suggesting a link between dimerization and partial tandem duplication of DNA binding domains of MLL. Dimerized MLL binds with higher affinity than undimerized MLL to a CpG island within the Hox a9 locus. However, MLL-AF9 is not dimerized in vivo. The data support a model in which either MLL dimerization/exon duplication or fusion to a transcriptional activator results in Hox gene upregulation and ultimately transformation.

Milne TA, Briggs SD, Brock HW, Martin ME, Gibbs D, Allis CD, Hess JL. 2002. MLL targets SET domain methyltransferase activity to Hox gene promoters. Mol Cell, 10 (5), pp. 1107-1117. | Show Abstract | Read more

MLL, the human homolog of Drosophila trithorax, maintains Hox gene expression in mammalian embryos and is rearranged in human leukemias resulting in Hox gene deregulation. How MLL or MLL fusion proteins regulate gene expression remains obscure. We show that MLL regulates target Hox gene expression through direct binding to promoter sequences. We further show that the MLL SET domain is a histone H3 lysine 4-specific methyltransferase whose activity is stimulated with acetylated H3 peptides. This methylase activity is associated with Hox gene activation and H3 (Lys4) methylation at cis-regulatory sequences in vivo. A leukemogenic MLL fusion protein that activates Hox expression had no effect on histone methylation, suggesting a distinct mechanism for gene regulation by MLL and MLL fusion proteins.

Dietrich BH, Moore J, Kyba M, dosSantos G, McCloskey F, Milne TA, Brock HW, Krause HM. 2001. Tantalus, a novel ASX-interacting protein with tissue-specific functions. Dev Biol, 234 (2), pp. 441-453. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Drosophila trithorax- and Polycomb-group (trxG and PcG) proteins maintain activated and repressed transcriptional states at specific target gene loci. The Additional sex combs (Asx) gene is of particular interest as it appears to function in both protein complexes and yet its effects on target genes are more restricted. A novel protein, Tantalus (TAN), was identified in a yeast two-hybrid screen for ASX-interacting proteins that might confer tissue-specific ASX functions. TAN contains consensus nuclear localization sites and binds DNA in vitro. However, its subcellular localization varies in a tissue-specific fashion. In salivary glands, TAN is predominantly nuclear and associates with 66 euchromatic sites on polytene chromosomes, more than half of which overlap with ASX. These loci do not include the homeotic genes of the ANT and BX complexes bound by other PcG and trxG proteins. Rather, tan mutant defects are restricted to sensory organs. We show that one of these defects, shared by Asx, is genetically enhanced by Asx. Taken together, the data suggest that TAN is a tissue-specific cofactor for ASX, and that its activity may be partially controlled by subcellular trafficking.

Milne TA, Sinclair DA, Brock HW. 1999. The Additional sex combs gene of Drosophila is required for activation and repression of homeotic loci, and interacts specifically with Polycomb and super sex combs. Mol Gen Genet, 261 (4-5), pp. 753-761. | Show Abstract | Read more

The protein products of Polycomb group (PcG) and trithorax group (trxG) genes are required for the maintenance of the transcriptionally repressed and active states, respectively, of the homeotic genes. Mutations in PcG genes produce gain-of-function (posterior) homeotic transformations, while mutations in trxG genes produce loss-of-function (anterior) homeotic transformations. Double mutant combinations between a PcG gene and a trxG gene suppress the homeotic transformations seen with either mutation alone, suggesting that PcG and trxG genes act antagonistically. The PcG gene Additional sex combs (Asx) is interesting because one mutant allele, AsxP1, causes both anterior and posterior homeotic transformations. AsxP1 and other Asx mutations were crossed to mutations in the PcG gene Polycomb (Pc) and the trxG gene trithorax (trx). Asx alleles enhance both PcG and trxG homeotic transformations, showing that Asx is required for both the activation and the repression of homeotic loci. Asx also shows strong allele-specific interactions with the PcG genes Pc and super sex combs (sxc). Together, these data indicate that there are functional interactions between Asx, Pc and sxc in vivo. ASX may interact with a PcG complex containing PC and SXC and mediate activation versus repression at target loci, perhaps by interacting directly with the TRX protein.

Sinclair DA, Clegg NJ, Antonchuk J, Milne TA, Stankunas K, Ruse C, Grigliatti TA, Kassis JA, Brock HW. 1998. Enhancer of Polycomb is a suppressor of position-effect variegation in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics, 148 (1), pp. 211-220. | Show Abstract

Polycomb group (PcG) genes of Drosophila are negative regulators of homeotic gene expression required for maintenance of determination. Sequence similarity between Polycomb and Su(var)205 led to the suggestion that PcG genes and modifiers of position-effect variegation (PEV) might function analogously in the establishment of chromatin structure. If PcG proteins participate directly in the same process that leads to PEV, PcG mutations should suppress PEV. We show that mutations in E(Pc), an unusual member of the PcG, suppress PEV of four variegating rearrangements: In(l)wm4, B(SV), T(2;3)Sb(V) and In(2R)bw(VDe2). Using reversion of a Pelement insertion, deficiency mapping, and recombination mapping as criteria, homeotic effects and suppression of PEV associated with E(Pc) co-map. Asx is an enhancer of PEV, whereas nine other PcG loci do not affect PEV. These results support the conclusion that there are fewer similarities between PcG genes and modifiers of PEV than previously supposed. However, E(Pc) appears to be an important link between the two groups. We discuss why Asx might act as an enhancer of PEV.

Sinclair DA, Milne TA, Hodgson JW, Shellard J, Salinas CA, Kyba M, Randazzo F, Brock HW. 1998. The Additional sex combs gene of Drosophila encodes a chromatin protein that binds to shared and unique Polycomb group sites on polytene chromosomes. Development, 125 (7), pp. 1207-1216. | Show Abstract

The Additional sex combs (Asx) gene of Drosophila is a member of the Polycomb group of genes, which are required for maintenance of stable repression of homeotic and other loci. Asx is unusual among the Polycomb group because: (1) one Asx allele exhibits both anterior and posterior transformations; (2) Asx mutations enhance anterior transformations of trx mutations; (3) Asx mutations exhibit segmentation phenotypes in addition to homeotic phenotypes; (4) Asx is an Enhancer of position-effect variegation and (5) Asx displays tissue-specific derepression of target genes. Asx was cloned by transposon tagging and encodes a protein of 1668 amino acids containing an unusual cysteine cluster at the carboxy terminus. The protein is ubiquitously expressed during development. We show that Asx is required in the central nervous system to regulate Ultrabithorax. ASX binds to multiple sites on polytene chromosomes, 70% of which overlap those of Polycomb, polyhomeotic and Polycomblike, and 30% of which are unique. The differences in target site recognition may account for some of the differences in Asx phenotypes relative to other members of the Polycomb group.

Wu Q, Ferry QRV, Baeumler TA, Michaels YS, Vitsios DM, Habib O, Arnold R, Jiang X, Maio S, Steinkraus BR et al. 2017. In situ functional dissection of RNA cis-regulatory elements by multiplex CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering. Nat Commun, 8 (1), pp. 2109. | Show Abstract | Read more

RNA regulatory elements (RREs) are an important yet relatively under-explored facet of gene regulation. Deciphering the prevalence and functional impact of this post-transcriptional control layer requires technologies for disrupting RREs without perturbing cellular homeostasis. Here we describe genome-engineering based evaluation of RNA regulatory element activity (GenERA), a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 platform for in situ high-content functional analysis of RREs. We use GenERA to survey the entire regulatory landscape of a 3'UTR, and apply it in a multiplex fashion to analyse combinatorial interactions between sets of miRNA response elements (MREs), providing strong evidence for cooperative activity. We also employ this technology to probe the functionality of an entire MRE network under cellular homeostasis, and show that high-resolution analysis of the GenERA dataset can be used to extract functional features of MREs. This study provides a genome editing-based multiplex strategy for direct functional interrogation of RNA cis-regulatory elements in a native cellular environment.

Pasricha S-R, Lim PJ, Duarte TL, Casu C, Oosterhuis D, Mleczko-Sanecka K, Suciu M, Da Silva AR, Al-Hourani K, Arezes J et al. 2017. Hepcidin is regulated by promoter-associated histone acetylation and HDAC3. Nat Commun, 8 (1), pp. 403. | Show Abstract | Read more

Hepcidin regulates systemic iron homeostasis. Suppression of hepcidin expression occurs physiologically in iron deficiency and increased erythropoiesis but is pathologic in thalassemia and hemochromatosis. Here we show that epigenetic events govern hepcidin expression. Erythropoiesis and iron deficiency suppress hepcidin via erythroferrone-dependent and -independent mechanisms, respectively, in vivo, but both involve reversible loss of H3K9ac and H3K4me3 at the hepcidin locus. In vitro, pan-histone deacetylase inhibition elevates hepcidin expression, and in vivo maintains H3K9ac at hepcidin-associated chromatin and abrogates hepcidin suppression by erythropoietin, iron deficiency, thalassemia, and hemochromatosis. Histone deacetylase 3 and its cofactor NCOR1 regulate hepcidin; histone deacetylase 3 binds chromatin at the hepcidin locus, and histone deacetylase 3 knockdown counteracts hepcidin suppression induced either by erythroferrone or by inhibiting bone morphogenetic protein signaling. In iron deficient mice, the histone deacetylase 3 inhibitor RGFP966 increases hepcidin, and RNA sequencing confirms hepcidin is one of the genes most differentially regulated by this drug in vivo. We conclude that suppression of hepcidin expression involves epigenetic regulation by histone deacetylase 3.Hepcidin controls systemic iron levels by inhibiting intestinal iron absorption and iron recycling. Here, Pasricha et al. demonstrate that the hepcidin-chromatin locus displays HDAC3-mediated reversible epigenetic modifications during both erythropoiesis and iron deficiency.

Godfrey L, Kerry J, Thorne R, Repapi E, Davies JOJ, Tapia M, Ballabio E, Hughes JR, Geng H, Konopleva M, Milne TA. 2017. MLL-AF4 binds directly to a BCL-2 specific enhancer and modulates H3K27 acetylation. Exp Hematol, 47 pp. 64-75. | Show Abstract | Read more

Survival rates for children and adults carrying mutations in the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene continue to have a very poor prognosis. The most common MLL mutation in acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the t(4;11)(q21;q23) chromosome translocation that fuses MLL in-frame with the AF4 gene producing MLL-AF4 and AF4-MLL fusion proteins. Previously, we found that MLL-AF4 binds to the BCL-2 gene and directly activates it through DOT1L recruitment and increased H3K79me2/3 levels. In the study described here, we performed a detailed analysis of MLL-AF4 regulation of the entire BCL-2 family. By measuring nascent RNA production in MLL-AF4 knockdowns, we found that of all the BCL-2 family genes, MLL-AF4 directly controls the active transcription of both BCL-2 and MCL-1 and also represses BIM via binding of the polycomb group repressor 1 (PRC1) complex component CBX8. We further analyzed MLL-AF4 activation of the BCL-2 gene using Capture-C and identified a BCL-2-specific enhancer, consisting of two clusters of H3K27Ac at the 3' end of the gene. Loss of MLL-AF4 activity results in a reduction of H3K79me3 levels in the gene body and H3K27Ac levels at the 3' BCL-2 enhancer, revealing a novel regulatory link between these two histone marks and MLL-AF4-mediated activation of BCL-2.

Kerry J, Godfrey L, Repapi E, Tapia M, Blackledge NP, Ma H, Ballabio E, O'Byrne S, Ponthan F, Heidenreich O et al. 2017. MLL-AF4 Spreading Identifies Binding Sites that Are Distinct from Super-Enhancers and that Govern Sensitivity to DOT1L Inhibition in Leukemia. Cell Rep, 18 (2), pp. 482-495. | Show Abstract | Read more

Understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of defined cancers is crucial for effective personalized therapies. Translocations of the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene produce fusion proteins such as MLL-AF4 that disrupt epigenetic pathways and cause poor-prognosis leukemias. Here, we find that at a subset of gene targets, MLL-AF4 binding spreads into the gene body and is associated with the spreading of Menin binding, increased transcription, increased H3K79 methylation (H3K79me2/3), a disruption of normal H3K36me3 patterns, and unmethylated CpG regions in the gene body. Compared to other H3K79me2/3 marked genes, MLL-AF4 spreading gene expression is downregulated by inhibitors of the H3K79 methyltransferase DOT1L. This sensitivity mediates synergistic interactions with additional targeted drug treatments. Therefore, epigenetic spreading and enhanced susceptibility to epidrugs provides a potential marker for better understanding combination therapies in humans.

Lin S, Luo RT, Ptasinska A, Kerry J, Assi SA, Wunderlich M, Imamura T, Kaberlein JJ, Rayes A, Althoff MJ et al. 2016. Instructive Role of MLL-Fusion Proteins Revealed by a Model of t(4;11) Pro-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Cancer Cell, 30 (5), pp. 737-749. | Show Abstract | Read more

The t(4;11)(q21;q23) fuses mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) to AF4, the most common MLL-fusion partner. Here we show that MLL fused to murine Af4, highly conserved with human AF4, produces high-titer retrovirus permitting efficient transduction of human CD34+ cells, thereby generating a model of t(4;11) pro-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that fully recapitulates the immunophenotypic and molecular aspects of the disease. MLL-Af4 induces a B ALL distinct from MLL-AF9 through differential genomic target binding of the fusion proteins leading to specific gene expression patterns. MLL-Af4 cells can assume a myeloid state under environmental pressure but retain lymphoid-lineage potential. Such incongruity was also observed in t(4;11) patients in whom leukemia evaded CD19-directed therapy by undergoing myeloid-lineage switch. Our model provides a valuable tool to unravel the pathogenesis of MLL-AF4 leukemogenesis.

Benito JM, Godfrey L, Kojima K, Hogdal L, Wunderlich M, Geng H, Marzo I, Harutyunyan KG, Golfman L, North P et al. 2015. MLL-Rearranged Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemias Activate BCL-2 through H3K79 Methylation and Are Sensitive to the BCL-2-Specific Antagonist ABT-199. Cell Rep, 13 (12), pp. 2715-2727. | Show Abstract | Read more

Targeted therapies designed to exploit specific molecular pathways in aggressive cancers are an exciting area of current research. Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) mutations such as the t(4;11) translocation cause aggressive leukemias that are refractory to conventional treatment. The t(4;11) translocation produces an MLL/AF4 fusion protein that activates key target genes through both epigenetic and transcriptional elongation mechanisms. In this study, we show that t(4;11) patient cells express high levels of BCL-2 and are highly sensitive to treatment with the BCL-2-specific BH3 mimetic ABT-199. We demonstrate that MLL/AF4 specifically upregulates the BCL-2 gene but not other BCL-2 family members via DOT1L-mediated H3K79me2/3. We use this information to show that a t(4;11) cell line is sensitive to a combination of ABT-199 and DOT1L inhibitors. In addition, ABT-199 synergizes with standard induction-type therapy in a xenotransplant model, advocating for the introduction of ABT-199 into therapeutic regimens for MLL-rearranged leukemias.

Wilkinson AC, Ballabio E, Geng H, North P, Tapia M, Kerry J, Biswas D, Roeder RG, Allis CD, Melnick A et al. 2013. RUNX1 is a key target in t(4;11) leukemias that contributes to gene activation through an AF4-MLL complex interaction. Cell Rep, 3 (1), pp. 116-127. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) protein is an important epigenetic regulator required for the maintenance of gene activation during development. MLL chromosomal translocations produce novel fusion proteins that cause aggressive leukemias in humans. Individual MLL fusion proteins have distinct leukemic phenotypes even when expressed in the same cell type, but how this distinction is delineated on a molecular level is poorly understood. Here, we highlight a unique molecular mechanism whereby the RUNX1 gene is directly activated by MLL-AF4 and the RUNX1 protein interacts with the product of the reciprocal AF4-MLL translocation. These results support a mechanism of transformation whereby two oncogenic fusion proteins cooperate by activating a target gene and then modulating the function of its downstream product.

Geng H, Brennan S, Milne TA, Chen W-Y, Li Y, Hurtz C, Kweon S-M, Zickl L, Shojaee S, Neuberg D et al. 2012. Integrative epigenomic analysis identifies biomarkers and therapeutic targets in adult B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Cancer Discov, 2 (11), pp. 1004-1023. | Show Abstract | Read more

UNLABELLED: Genetic lesions such as BCR-ABL1, E2A-PBX1, and MLL rearrangements (MLLr) are associated with unfavorable outcomes in adult B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Leukemia oncoproteins may directly or indirectly disrupt cytosine methylation patterning to mediate the malignant phenotype. We postulated that DNA methylation signatures in these aggressive B-ALLs would point toward disease mechanisms and useful biomarkers and therapeutic targets. We therefore conducted DNA methylation and gene expression profiling on a cohort of 215 adult patients with B-ALL enrolled in a single phase III clinical trial (ECOG E2993) and normal control B cells. In BCR-ABL1-positive B-ALLs, aberrant cytosine methylation patterning centered around a cytokine network defined by hypomethylation and overexpression of IL2RA(CD25). The E2993 trial clinical data showed that CD25 expression was strongly associated with a poor outcome in patients with ALL regardless of BCR-ABL1 status, suggesting CD25 as a novel prognostic biomarker for risk stratification in B-ALLs. In E2A-PBX1-positive B-ALLs, aberrant DNA methylation patterning was strongly associated with direct fusion protein binding as shown by the E2A-PBX1 chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) sequencing (ChIP-seq), suggesting that E2A-PBX1 fusion protein directly remodels the epigenome to impose an aggressive B-ALL phenotype. MLLr B-ALL featured prominent cytosine hypomethylation, which was linked with MLL fusion protein binding, H3K79 dimethylation, and transcriptional upregulation, affecting a set of known and newly identified MLL fusion direct targets with oncogenic activity such as FLT3 and BCL6. Notably, BCL6 blockade or loss of function suppressed proliferation and survival of MLLr leukemia cells, suggesting BCL6-targeted therapy as a new therapeutic strategy for MLLr B-ALLs. SIGNIFICANCE: We conducted the first integrative epigenomic study in adult B-ALLs, as a correlative study to the ECOG E2993 phase III clinical trial. This study links for the first time the direct actions of oncogenic fusion proteins with disruption of epigenetic regulation mediated by cytosine methylation. We identify a novel clinically actionable biomarker in B-ALLs: IL2RA (CD25), which is linked with BCR-ABL1 and an inflammatory signaling network associated with chemotherapy resistance. We show that BCL6 is a novel MLL fusion protein target that is required to maintain the proliferation and survival of primary human adult MLLr cells and provide the basis for a clinical trial with BCL6 inhibitors for patients with MLLr.

Kowalczyk MS, Hughes JR, Garrick D, Lynch MD, Sharpe JA, Sloane-Stanley JA, McGowan SJ, De Gobbi M, Hosseini M, Vernimmen D et al. 2012. Intragenic enhancers act as alternative promoters. Mol Cell, 45 (4), pp. 447-458. | Show Abstract | Read more

A substantial amount of organismal complexity is thought to be encoded by enhancers which specify the location, timing, and levels of gene expression. In mammals there are more enhancers than promoters which are distributed both between and within genes. Here we show that activated, intragenic enhancers frequently act as alternative tissue-specific promoters producing a class of abundant, spliced, multiexonic poly(A)(+) RNAs (meRNAs) which reflect the host gene's structure. meRNAs make a substantial and unanticipated contribution to the complexity of the transcriptome, appearing as alternative isoforms of the host gene. The low protein-coding potential of meRNAs suggests that many meRNAs may be byproducts of enhancer activation or underlie as-yet-unidentified RNA-encoded functions. Distinguishing between meRNAs and mRNAs will transform our interpretation of dynamic changes in transcription both at the level of individual genes and of the genome as a whole.

Biswas D, Milne TA, Basrur V, Kim J, Elenitoba-Johnson KSJ, Allis CD, Roeder RG. 2011. Function of leukemogenic mixed lineage leukemia 1 (MLL) fusion proteins through distinct partner protein complexes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 108 (38), pp. 15751-15756. | Show Abstract | Read more

A number of acute leukemias arise from fusion of the mixed lineage leukemia 1 protein (MLL) N terminus to a variety of fusion partners that have been reported to reside in one or more poorly defined complexes linked to transcription elongation through interactions with the histone H3-K79 methyltransferase DOT1 and positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb). Here we first identify natural complexes (purified through fusion partners AF9, AF4, and ELL) with overlapping components, different elongation activities, and different cofactor associations that suggest dynamic interactions. Then, through reconstitution of defined, functionally active minimal complexes, we identify stable subcomplexes that, through newly defined protein-protein interactions, form distinct higher order complexes. These definitive analyses show, for example, that (i) through direct interactions with AF9 and cyclinT1, family members AF4 and AFF4 independently mediate association of P-TEFb with AF9, (ii) P-TEFb, through direct interactions, provides the link for association of ELL and ELL-associated factors 1 and 2 (EAF1 and EAF2) with AF4, and (iii) in the absence of other factors, DOT1 forms a stable complex with AF9 and does not interact with AF9•AF4•P-TEFb complexes. Finally, we show the importance of defined higher order complex formation in MLL-AF9-mediated transcriptional up-regulation and cell immortalization potential in vivo. Thus, our study provides direct mechanistic insight into the role of fusion partners in MLL fusion-mediated leukemogenesis.

Ruthenburg AJ, Li H, Milne TA, Dewell S, McGinty RK, Yuen M, Ueberheide B, Dou Y, Muir TW, Patel DJ, Allis CD. 2011. Recognition of a mononucleosomal histone modification pattern by BPTF via multivalent interactions. Cell, 145 (5), pp. 692-706. | Show Abstract | Read more

Little is known about how combinations of histone marks are interpreted at the level of nucleosomes. The second PHD finger of human BPTF is known to specifically recognize histone H3 when methylated on lysine 4 (H3K4me2/3). Here, we examine how additional heterotypic modifications influence BPTF binding. Using peptide surrogates, three acetyllysine ligands are indentified for a PHD-adjacent bromodomain in BPTF via systematic screening and biophysical characterization. Although the bromodomain displays limited discrimination among the three possible acetyllysines at the peptide level, marked selectivity is observed for only one of these sites, H4K16ac, in combination with H3K4me3 at the mononucleosome level. In support, these two histone marks constitute a unique trans-histone modification pattern that unambiguously resides within a single nucleosomal unit in human cells, and this module colocalizes with these marks in the genome. Together, our data call attention to nucleosomal patterning of covalent marks in dictating critical chromatin associations.

Milne TA, Kim J, Wang GG, Stadler SC, Basrur V, Whitcomb SJ, Wang Z, Ruthenburg AJ, Elenitoba-Johnson KSJ, Roeder RG, Allis CD. 2010. Multiple interactions recruit MLL1 and MLL1 fusion proteins to the HOXA9 locus in leukemogenesis. Mol Cell, 38 (6), pp. 853-863. | Show Abstract | Read more

MLL1 fusion proteins activate HoxA9 gene expression and cause aggressive leukemias that respond poorly to treatment, but how they recognize and stably bind to HoxA9 is not clearly understood. In a systematic analysis of MLL1 domain recruitment activity, we identified an essential MLL1 recruitment domain that includes the CXXC domain and PHD fingers and is controlled by direct interactions with the PAF elongation complex and H3K4Me2/3. MLL1 fusion proteins lack the PHD fingers and require prebinding of a wild-type MLL1 complex and CXXC domain recognition of DNA for stable HoxA9 association. Together, these results suggest that specific recruitment of MLL1 requires multiple interactions and is a precondition for stable recruitment of MLL1 fusion proteins to HoxA9 in leukemogenesis. Since wild-type MLL1 and oncogenic MLL1 fusion proteins have overlapping yet distinct recruitment mechanisms, this creates a window of opportunity that could be exploited for the development of targeted therapies.

Wang Z, Song J, Milne TA, Wang GG, Li H, Allis CD, Patel DJ. 2010. Pro isomerization in MLL1 PHD3-bromo cassette connects H3K4me readout to CyP33 and HDAC-mediated repression. Cell, 141 (7), pp. 1183-1194. | Show Abstract | Read more

The MLL1 gene is a frequent target for recurrent chromosomal translocations, resulting in transformation of hematopoietic precursors into leukemia stem cells. Here, we report on structure-function studies that elucidate molecular events in MLL1 binding of histone H3K4me3/2 marks and recruitment of the cyclophilin CyP33. CyP33 contains a PPIase and a RRM domain and regulates MLL1 function through HDAC recruitment. We find that the PPIase domain of CyP33 regulates the conformation of MLL1 through proline isomerization within the PHD3-Bromo linker, thereby disrupting the PHD3-Bromo interface and facilitating binding of the MLL1-PHD3 domain to the CyP33-RRM domain. H3K4me3/2 and CyP33-RRM target different surfaces of MLL1-PHD3 and can bind simultaneously to form a ternary complex. Furthermore, the MLL1-CyP33 interaction is required for repression of HOXA9 and HOXC8 genes in vivo. Our results highlight the role of PHD3-Bromo cassette as a regulatory platform, orchestrating MLL1 binding of H3K4me3/2 marks and cyclophilin-mediated repression through HDAC recruitment.

Kim J, Guermah M, McGinty RK, Lee J-S, Tang Z, Milne TA, Shilatifard A, Muir TW, Roeder RG. 2009. RAD6-Mediated transcription-coupled H2B ubiquitylation directly stimulates H3K4 methylation in human cells. Cell, 137 (3), pp. 459-471. | Show Abstract | Read more

H2B ubiquitylation has been implicated in active transcription but is not well understood in mammalian cells. Beyond earlier identification of hBRE1 as the E3 ligase for H2B ubiquitylation in human cells, we now show (1) that hRAD6 serves as the cognate E2-conjugating enzyme; (2) that hRAD6, through direct interaction with hPAF-bound hBRE1, is recruited to transcribed genes and ubiquitylates chromatinized H2B at lysine 120; (3) that hPAF-mediated transcription is required for efficient H2B ubiquitylation as a result of hPAF-dependent recruitment of hBRE1-hRAD6 to the Pol II transcription machinery; (4) that H2B ubiquitylation per se does not affect the level of hPAF-, SII-, and p300-dependent transcription and likely functions downstream; and (5) that H2B ubiquitylation directly stimulates hSET1-dependent H3K4 di- and trimethylation. These studies establish the natural H2B ubiquitylation factors in human cells and also detail the mechanistic basis for H2B ubiquitylation and function during transcription.

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