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Epigenetic regulation by microRNA of MDS pathogenesis

Keisuke Ito

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is an incurable stem cell disorder that often progresses to myeloid leukemia. An abnormal epigenetic modulation has been highlighted as playing a crucial part in the pathogenesis, progress, and evolution of this disorder. To date, effective therapy for MDS has proved elusive, with supportive care used to ameliorate symptoms, and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation the only available curative option. MicroRNAs have recently been implicated in hematological malignancies through their inhibition of the expression of specific target genes. In this context, we have identified an oncogenic microRNA that enhances the self-renewal of stem cells and remodels the epigenetic landscape toward hematological malignancies. To better understand through its activity the key pathways involved in stem cell biology and MDS pathogenesis, we propose the following Specific Aims: 1. Determine how TET2 directly contributes to function of an oncogenic microRNA in hematopoiesis We have generated transgenic mice conditionally expressing this newly-identified oncogenic microRNA in the hematopoietic compartment, which in turn exhibits lower levels of ten-eleven translocation gene 2 (TET2) and global 5-hydroxymethylcytosine than control cells. Bioinformatics analyses have consistently identified TET2 as a potential target of this microRNA, whose expression was directly anti-correlated with the levels of TET2 in our large-cohort data set of patients with MDS, leading us to hypothesize that TET2 is its key target. The current proposal aims to elucidate the effect of ectopic expression of TET2 on the hematopoietic phenotypes induced by this microRNA both in vivo and in vitro. We expect our studies will provide a rationale for the therapeutic potential of targeting TET2 for the treatment of hematological malignancies. 2. Test the therapeutic potential of microRNA inhibition in preclinical models of MDS. We have shown a direct correlation between aberrant expression of this microRNA and poor MDS survival rates. Our preliminary findings demonstrated in vitro that blocking this microRNA reduces leukemogenicity in mouse primary leukemic cells and in human leukemia cell lines, accompanied by elevation of TET2, with minimal injury to normal murine hematopoiesis. In this aim, we propose to assess the safety and efficacy of inhibition of microRNA in human primary leukemia samples. We will integrate these findings with the data of ongoing pre-clinical trials in faithful mouse models of myelodysplastic syndrome, and will finally explore the potential to initiate formal clinical trial towards effective eradication of myelodysplastic syndrome. 3. To elucidate mechanistically the key target genes regulated by the microRNA-TET2 pathway: To further understand the consequences of repression of TET2 protein by the microRNA in hematopoiesis, we will examine the effects of aberrant microRNA-TET2 cross-talk on putative targets of TET2 protein. We will focus our analysis on the genetic manipulation of these genes, both in vivo and in vitro, in murine hematopoietic stem cells from transgenic mice, to observe the subsequent effects on MDS pathogenesis induced by microRNA. These proposed studies will not only identify microRNA as a potent proto-oncogene, but will also define aberrations in the microRNA-TET2 regulatory network as one of the most frequent events in hematological malignancies, with important therapeutic implications. This work will be conducted with the support of the following experts; Drs. David E. Avigan (Hematology/Oncology), Jan Vijg (Genetics, Epigenetics and microRNA biogenesis), Julie Teruya-Feldstein (Hemato-pathology), and Toshio Suda (Stem Cells). Importantly, Dr. Paul S. Frenette (Stem Cell niche) is closely supporting our research program along with Dr. Arthur Skoultchi (Epigenetic reprogramming in Hematology).

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