The mammary epithelium is organized as a bilayer of luminal and basal/myoepithelial cells. During pregnancy, the luminal compartment expands for milk production, while basal cells are thought to provide structural and contractile support. Here, we reveal a pregnancy-specific role of basal epithelia as a central coordinator of lactogenesis. We demonstrate that genetic deletion of the transcription factor p63 (Trp63) gene exclusively within basal cells of the adult gland during pregnancy leads to dramatic defects in luminal cell proliferation and differentiation, resulting in lactation failure. This phenotype is explained by direct transcriptional activation of the epidermal growth factor family ligand gene Nrg1 by p63 selectively in basal cells, which is required for luminal ERBB4/STAT5A activation and consequent luminal progenitor cell maturation. Thus, paracrine basal-to-luminal cell signaling, controlled by p63 via NRG1, orchestrates the entire lactation program. Collectively, these findings redefine the paradigm for cellular interactions specifying the functional maturation of the mammary gland.
Transient leukemia (TL) is evident in 5-10% of all neonates with Down syndrome (DS) and associated with N-terminal truncating GATA1 mutations (GATA1s). Here we report that TL-cell clones generate abundant eosinophils in a substantial fraction of patients. Sorted eosinophils from patients with TL and eosinophilia carried the same GATA1s mutations as sorted TL blasts, consistent with their clonal origin. TL blasts exhibited a genetic program characteristic of eosinophils and differentiated along the eosinophil lineage in vitro. Similarly, ectopic expression of Gata1s, but not Gata1, in wild-type CD34(+)-hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells induced hyperproliferation of eosinophil promyelocytes in vitro. Although GATA1s retained the function of GATA1 to induce eosinophil genes by occupying their promoter regions, GATA1s was impaired in its ability to repress oncogenic MYC and the pro-proliferative E2F transcription network. Chromatin Immunoprecipitation Sequencing (ChIP-seq) indicated reduced GATA1s occupancy at the MYC promoter. Knockdown of MYC, or the obligate E2F-cooperation partner DP1, rescued the GATA1s-induced hyperproliferative phenotype. In agreement, terminal eosinophil maturation was blocked in Gata1(Δe2) knockin mice, exclusively expressing Gata1s, leading to accumulation of eosinophil precursors in blood and bone marrow. These data suggest a direct relationship between the N-terminal truncating mutations of GATA1 and clonal eosinophilia in DS patients.
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors (HDACis) are well-characterized anti-cancer agents with promising results in clinical trials. However, mechanistically little is known regarding their selectivity in killing malignant cells while sparing normal cells. Gene expression-based chemical genomics identified HDACis as being particularly potent against Down syndrome-associated myeloid leukemia (DS-AMKL) blasts. Investigating the antileukemic function of HDACis revealed their transcriptional and post-translational regulation of key autophagic proteins, including ATG7. This leads to suppression of autophagy, a lysosomal degradation process that can protect cells against damaged or unnecessary organelles and protein aggregates. DS-AMKL cells exhibit low baseline autophagy due to mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation. Consequently, HDAC inhibition repressed autophagy below a critical threshold, which resulted in accumulation of mitochondria, production of reactive oxygen species, DNA damage and apoptosis. Those HDACi-mediated effects could be reverted upon autophagy activation or aggravated upon further pharmacological or genetic inhibition. Our findings were further extended to other major acute myeloid leukemia subgroups with low basal level autophagy. The constitutive suppression of autophagy due to mTOR activation represents an inherent difference between cancer and normal cells. Thus, via autophagy suppression, HDACis deprive cells of an essential pro-survival mechanism, which translates into an attractive strategy to specifically target cancer cells.
Lineage tracing using Cre/lox transgenic mice provides a powerful tool for studying normal mammary epithelial cell (MEC) development and the cellular origins of mammary tumors under physiological settings. However, generation of new transgenic mice for lineage-tracing purposes is often time consuming. Here, we report a lineage-tracing tool for MECs based on intraductal injection of lineage-specific Cre-expressing adenovirus (Ad-Cre). Using well-characterized promoters for Keratin 8 and Keratin 14, we generated lineage-specific Ad-Cre lines for luminal and basal MECs, respectively. By pulse-chase lineage tracing using these Ad-Cre lines, we showed that luminal and basal lineages are largely self-sustained and that IRS1 and IRS2 are essential for maintaining the basal lineage; we also showed that heterogeneous mammary tumors can be induced from luminal MECs in mice carrying the Etv6-NTRK3 fusion gene. Overall, we validated the Ad-Cre system as a promising and efficient tool for fate mapping of normal and malignant cells in adult tissues.
Although regulation of stem cell homeostasis by microRNAs (miRNAs) is well studied, it is unclear how individual miRNAs genomically encoded within an organized polycistron can interact to induce an integrated phenotype. miR-99a/100, let-7, and miR-125b paralogs are encoded in two tricistrons on human chromosomes 11 and 21. They are highly expressed in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL), an aggressive form of leukemia with poor prognosis. Here, we show that miR-99a/100∼125b tricistrons are transcribed as a polycistronic message transactivated by the homeobox transcription factor HOXA10. Integrative analysis of global gene expression profiling, miRNA target prediction, and pathway architecture revealed that miR-99a/100, let-7, and miR-125b functionally converge at the combinatorial block of the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) pathway by targeting four receptor subunits and two SMAD signaling transducers. In addition, down-regulation of tumor suppressor genes adenomatous polyposis coli (APC)/APC2 stabilizes active β-catenin and enhances Wnt signaling. By switching the balance between Wnt and TGFβ signaling, the concerted action of these tricistronic miRNAs promoted sustained expansion of murine and human HSCs in vitro or in vivo while favoring megakaryocytic differentiation. Hence, our study explains the high phylogenetic conservation of the miR-99a/100∼125b tricistrons controlling stem cell homeostasis, the deregulation of which contributes to the development of AMKL.
RUNX1 encodes a RUNX family transcription factor (TF) and was recently identified as a novel mutated gene in human luminal breast cancers. We found that Runx1 is expressed in all subpopulations of murine mammary epithelial cells (MECs) except the secretory alveolar luminal cells. Conditional knockout of Runx1 in MECs by MMTV-Cre led to a decrease in luminal MECs, largely due to a profound reduction in the estrogen receptor (ER)-positive mature luminal subpopulation, a phenotype that could be rescued by the loss of either Trp53 or Rb1. Mechanistically RUNX1 represses Elf5, a master regulatory TF gene for alveolar cells, and regulates mature luminal TF/co-factor genes (e.g., Foxa1 and Cited1) involved in the ER program. Collectively, our data identified a key regulator of the ER⁺ luminal lineage whose disruption may contribute to the development of ER⁺ luminal breast cancer when under the background of either TP53 or RB1 loss.
Megakaryocyte morphogenesis employs a "hypertrophy-like" developmental program that is dependent on P-TEFb kinase activation and cytoskeletal remodeling. P-TEFb activation classically occurs by a feedback-regulated process of signal-induced, reversible release of active Cdk9-cyclin T modules from large, inactive 7SK small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle (snRNP) complexes. Here, we have identified an alternative pathway of irreversible P-TEFb activation in megakaryopoiesis that is mediated by dissolution of the 7SK snRNP complex. In this pathway, calpain 2 cleavage of the core 7SK snRNP component MePCE promoted P-TEFb release and consequent upregulation of a cohort of cytoskeleton remodeling factors, including α-actinin-1. In a subset of human megakaryocytic leukemias, the transcription factor GATA1 undergoes truncating mutation (GATA1s). Here, we linked the GATA1s mutation to defects in megakaryocytic upregulation of calpain 2 and of P-TEFb-dependent cytoskeletal remodeling factors. Restoring calpain 2 expression in GATA1s mutant megakaryocytes rescued normal development, implicating this morphogenetic pathway as a target in human leukemogenesis.
Distinguishing aggressive from indolent disease and developing effective therapy for advanced disease are the major challenges in prostate cancer research. Chromosomal rearrangements involving ETS transcription factors, such as ERG and ETV1, occur frequently in prostate cancer. How they contribute to tumorigenesis and whether they play similar or distinct in vivo roles remain elusive. Here we show that in mice with ERG or ETV1 targeted to the endogenous Tmprss2 locus, either factor cooperated with loss of a single copy of Pten, leading to localized cancer, but only ETV1 appeared to support development of invasive adenocarcinoma under the background of full Pten loss. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that ERG and ETV1 control a common transcriptional network but largely in an opposing fashion. In particular, while ERG negatively regulates the androgen receptor (AR) transcriptional program, ETV1 cooperates with AR signaling by favoring activation of the AR transcriptional program. Furthermore, we found that ETV1 expression, but not that of ERG, promotes autonomous testosterone production. Last, we confirmed the association of an ETV1 expression signature with aggressive disease and poorer outcome in patient data. The distinct biology of ETV1-associated prostate cancer suggests that this disease class may require new therapies directed to underlying programs controlled by ETV1.
Oncogene-mediated transformation of hematopoietic cells has been studied extensively, but little is known about the molecular basis for restriction of oncogenes to certain target cells and differential cellular context-specific requirements for oncogenic transformation between infant and adult leukemias. Understanding cell type-specific interplay of signaling pathways and oncogenes is essential for developing targeted cancer therapies. Here, we address the vexing issue of how developmental restriction is achieved in Down syndrome acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (DS-AMKL), characterized by the triad of fetal origin, mutated GATA1 (GATA1s), and trisomy 21. We demonstrate overactivity of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling in authentic human DS-AMKL and in a DS-AMKL mouse model generated through retroviral insertional mutagenesis. Fetal but not adult megakaryocytic progenitors are dependent on this pathway. GATA1 restricts IGF-mediated activation of the E2F transcription network to coordinate proliferation and differentiation. Failure of a direct GATA1-E2F interaction in mutated GATA1s converges with overactive IGF signaling to promote cellular transformation of DS fetal progenitors, revealing a complex, fetal stage-specific regulatory network. Our study underscores context-dependent requirements during oncogenesis, and explains resistance to transformation of ostensibly similar adult progenitors.
Children with trisomy 21/Down syndrome (DS) are at high risk to develop acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (DS-AMKL) and the related transient leukemia (DS-TL). The factors on human chromosome 21 (Hsa21) that confer this predisposing effect, especially in synergy with consistently mutated transcription factor GATA1 (GATA1s), remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated the role of Hsa21-encoded miR-125b-2, a microRNA (miRNA) overexpressed in DS-AMKL/TL, in hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis. We identified a function of miR-125b-2 in increasing proliferation and self-renewal of human and mouse megakaryocytic progenitors (MPs) and megakaryocytic/erythroid progenitors (MEPs). miR-125b-2 overexpression did not affect megakaryocytic and erythroid differentiation, but severely perturbed myeloid differentiation. The proproliferative effect of miR-125b-2 on MEPs accentuated the Gata1s mutation, whereas growth of DS-AMKL/TL cells was impaired upon miR-125b repression, suggesting synergism during leukemic transformation in GATA1s-mutated DS-AMKL/TL. Integrative transcriptome analysis of hematopoietic cells upon modulation of miR-125b expression levels uncovered a set of miR-125b target genes, including DICER1 and ST18 as direct targets. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis revealed that this target gene set is down-regulated in DS-AMKL patients highly expressing miR-125b. Thus, we propose miR-125b-2 as a positive regulator of megakaryopoiesis and an oncomiR involved in the pathogenesis of trisomy 21-associated megakaryoblastic leukemia.
Trisomy of human chromosome 21 (Hsa21) results in Down syndrome (DS), a disorder that affects many aspects of physiology, including hematopoiesis. DS children have greatly increased rates of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL); DS newborns present with transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD), a preleukemic form of AMKL. TMD and DS-AMKL almost always carry an acquired mutation in GATA1 resulting in exclusive synthesis of a truncated protein (GATA1s), suggesting that both trisomy 21 and GATA1 mutations are required for leukemogenesis. To gain further understanding of how Hsa21 contributes to hematopoietic abnormalities, we examined the Tc1 mouse model of DS, which carries an almost complete freely segregating copy of Hsa21, and is the most complete model of DS available. We show that although Tc1 mice do not develop leukemia, they have macrocytic anemia and increased extramedullary hematopoiesis. Introduction of GATA1s into Tc1 mice resulted in a synergistic increase in megakaryopoiesis, but did not result in leukemia or a TMD-like phenotype, demonstrating that GATA1s and trisomy of approximately 80% of Hsa21 perturb megakaryopoiesis but are insufficient to induce leukemia.
GATA-2 is an essential transcription factor that regulates multiple aspects of hematopoiesis. Dysregulation of GATA-2 is a hallmark of acute megakaryoblastic leukemia in children with Down syndrome, a malignancy that is defined by the combination of trisomy 21 and a GATA1 mutation. Here, we show that GATA-2 is required for normal megakaryocyte development as well as aberrant megakaryopoiesis in Gata1 mutant cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that GATA-2 indirectly controls cell cycle progression in GATA-1-deficient megakaryocytes. Genome-wide microarray analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation studies revealed that GATA-2 regulates a wide set of genes, including cell cycle regulators and megakaryocyte-specific genes. Surprisingly, GATA-2 also negatively regulates the expression of crucial myeloid transcription factors, such as Sfpi1 and Cebpa. In the absence of GATA-1, GATA-2 prevents induction of a latent myeloid gene expression program. Thus, GATA-2 contributes to cell cycle progression and the maintenance of megakaryocyte identity of GATA-1-deficient cells, including GATA-1s-expressing fetal megakaryocyte progenitors. Moreover, our data reveal that overexpression of GATA-2 facilitates aberrant megakaryopoiesis.
To better understand the cellular origin of breast cancer, we developed a mouse model that recapitulates expression of the ETV6-NTRK3 (EN) fusion oncoprotein, the product of the t(12;15)(p13;q25) translocation characteristic of human secretory breast carcinoma. Activation of EN expression in mammary tissues by Wap-Cre leads to fully penetrant, multifocal malignant breast cancer with short latency. We provide genetic evidence that, in nulliparous Wap-Cre;EN females, committed alveolar bipotent or CD61(+) luminal progenitors are targets of tumorigenesis. Furthermore, EN transforms these otherwise transient progenitors through activation of the AP1 complex. Given the increasing relevance of chromosomal translocations in epithelial cancers, such mice serve as a paradigm for the study of their genetic pathogenesis and cellular origins, and generation of preclinical models.
The family of core-binding factors includes the DNA-binding subunits Runx1-3 and their common non-DNA-binding partner CBFbeta. We examined the collective role of core-binding factors in hematopoiesis with a hypomorphic Cbfb allelic series. Reducing CBFbeta levels by 3- or 6-fold caused abnormalities in bone development, megakaryocytes, granulocytes, and T cells. T-cell development was very sensitive to an incremental reduction of CBFbeta levels: mature thymocytes were decreased in number upon a 3-fold reduction in CBFbeta levels, and were virtually absent when CBFbeta levels were 6-fold lower. Partially penetrant consecutive differentiation blocks were found among early T-lineage progenitors within the CD4- CD8- double-negative 1 and downstream double-negative 2 thymocyte subsets. Our data define a critical CBFbeta threshold for normal T-cell development, and situate an essential role for core-binding factors during the earliest stages of T-cell development.
The Runt domain is the DNA binding domain of the core binding factor (CBF) Runx subunits. The CBFs are transcription factors that play critical roles in hematopoiesis, bone, and neuron development in mammals. A common non-DNA binding CBFbeta subunit heterodimerizes with the Runt domain of the Runx proteins and allosterically regulates its affinity for DNA. Previous NMR dynamics studies suggested a model whereby CBFbeta allosterically regulates DNA binding by quenching conformational exchange in the Runt domain, particularly in the S-switch region and the betaE'-F loop. We sought to test this model, and to this end introduced all possible single amino acid substitutions into the S-switch region and the betaE'-F loop, and screened for mutations that enhanced DNA-binding. We demonstrate that one Runt domain mutant, R164N, binds both DNA and CBFbeta with higher affinity, but it is less sensitive to allosteric regulation by CBFbeta. Analysis of NMR relaxation data shows that the chemical exchange exhibited by the wild-type Runt domain is largely quenched by the R164N substitution. These data support a model in which the dynamic behavior of a network of residues connecting the CBFbeta and DNA binding sites on the Runt domain plays a critical role in the mechanism of allosteric regulation. This study provides an important functional link between dynamic behavior and protein allosteric function, consistent with results on other allosterically regulated proteins.
In mammals, the perception of pain is initiated by the transduction of noxious stimuli through specialized ion channels and receptors expressed by nociceptive sensory neurons. The molecular mechanisms responsible for the specification of distinct sensory modality are, however, largely unknown. We show here that Runx1, a Runt domain transcription factor, is expressed in most nociceptors during embryonic development but in adult mice, becomes restricted to nociceptors marked by expression of the neurotrophin receptor Ret. In these neurons, Runx1 regulates the expression of many ion channels and receptors, including TRP class thermal receptors, Na+-gated, ATP-gated, and H+-gated channels, the opioid receptor MOR, and Mrgpr class G protein coupled receptors. Runx1 also controls the lamina-specific innervation pattern of nociceptive afferents in the spinal cord. Moreover, mice lacking Runx1 exhibit specific defects in thermal and neuropathic pain. Thus, Runx1 coordinates the phenotype of a large cohort of nociceptors, a finding with implications for pain therapy.
Runx1 expression marks the putative hemogenic endothelium between embryonic days (E) 8.5 to 11.5 of mouse gestation and is required for the formation of intra-aortic hematopoietic clusters, leading to the hypothesis that Runx1 is required for the transition from endothelial to hematopoietic cell. To address this hypothesis, we ablated the Runx1 gene by Cre-recombinase-mediated excision, with Cre expression under the control of the Tek promoter and enhancer. Most embryos died between E12.5 and E13.5 with a phenotype almost identical to Runx1 deficiency. We conclude that Runx1 function in establishing definitive hematopoiesis is required in a Tek+ cell.
Acquired mutations in the hematopoietic transcription factor GATA binding protein-1 (GATA1) are found in megakaryoblasts from nearly all individuals with Down syndrome with transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD, also called transient leukemia) and the related acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (DS-AMKL, also called DS-AML M7). These mutations lead to production of a variant GATA1 protein (GATA1s) that is truncated at its N terminus. To understand the biological properties of GATA1s and its relation to DS-AMKL and TMD, we used gene targeting to generate Gata1 alleles that express GATA1s in mice. We show that the dominant action of GATA1s leads to hyperproliferation of a unique, previously unrecognized yolk sac and fetal liver progenitor, which we propose accounts for the transient nature of TMD and the restriction of DS-AMKL to infants. Our observations raise the possibility that the target cells in other leukemias of infancy and early childhood are distinct from those in adult leukemias and underscore the interplay between specific oncoproteins and potential target cells.
Homozygous loss of function of Runx1 (Runt-related transcription factor 1 gene) during murine development results in an embryonic lethal phenotype characterized by a complete lack of definitive hematopoiesis. In light of recent reports of disparate requirements for hematopoietic transcription factors during development as opposed to adult hematopoiesis, we used a conditional gene-targeting strategy to effect the loss of Runx1 function in adult mice. In contrast with the critical role of Runx1 during development, Runx1 was not essential for hematopoiesis in the adult hematopoietic compartment, though a number of significant hematopoietic abnormalities were observed. Runx1 excision had lineage-specific effects on B- and T-cell maturation and pronounced inhibition of common lymphocyte progenitor production. Runx1 excision also resulted in inefficient platelet production. Of note, Runx1-deficient mice developed a mild myeloproliferative phenotype characterized by an increase in peripheral blood neutrophils, an increase in myeloid progenitor populations, and extramedullary hematopoiesis composed of maturing myeloid and erythroid elements. These findings indicate that Runx1 deficiency has markedly different consequences during development compared with adult hematopoiesis, and they provide insight into the phenotypic manifestations of Runx1 deficiency in hematopoietic malignancies.
UNLABELLED: We evaluated the detailed expression patterns of Runx1 and Sox9 in various types of bone formation, and determined whether Runx1 expression was affected by Runx2 deficiency and Runx2 expression by Runx1 deficiency. Our results indicate that both Runx1 and Sox9 are intensely expressed in the future osteogenic cell compartment and in cartilage. The pattern of Runx1 and Sox9 expression suggests that both genes could potentially be involved in incipient intramembranous bone formation during craniofacial development.
INTRODUCTION: Runx1, a gene essential for hematopoiesis, contains RUNX binding sites in its promoter region, suggesting possible cross-regulation with Runx2 and potential regulatory roles in bone development. On the other hand, Sox9 is essential for chondrogenesis, and haploinsufficiency of Sox9 leads to premature ossification of the skeletal system. In this study, we studied the possible roles of Runx1 and Sox9 in bone development.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Runx1, Runx2/Osf2, and Sox9 expression was evaluated by in situ hybridization in the growing craniofacial bones of embryonic day (E)12-16 mice and in the endochondral bone-forming regions of embryonic and postnatal long bones. In addition, we evaluated Runx2/Osf2 expression in the growing face of Runx1 knockout mice at E12.5 and Runx1 expression in Runx2 knockout mice at E14.5.
RESULTS: Runx1 and Sox9 were expressed in cartilage, and the regions of expression expanded to the neighboring Runx2-expressing osteogenic regions. Expression of both Runx1 and Sox9 was markedly downregulated on ossification. Runx1 and Sox9 expression was absent in the regions of endochondral bone formation and in actively modeling or remodeling bone tissues in the long bones as well as in ossified craniofacial bones. Runx2 expression was not affected by gene disruption of Runx1, whereas the expression domains of Runx1 were extended in Runx2(-/-) mice compared with wildtype mice.
CONCLUSIONS: Runx1 and Sox9 are specifically expressed in the osteogenic cell compartments in the craniofacial bones and the bone collar of long bones, and this expression is downregulated on terminal differentiation of osteoblasts. Our results suggest that Runx1 may play a role in incipient intramembranous bone formation.