Leukemias that harbor translocations involving the mixed lineage leukemia gene (MLL) possess unique biologic characteristics and often have an unfavorable prognosis. Gene expression analyses demonstrate a distinct profile for MLL-rearranged leukemias with consistent high-level expression of select Homeobox genes, including HOXA9. Here, we investigated the effects of HOXA9 suppression in MLL- rearranged and MLL-germline leukemias using RNA interference. Gene expression profiling after HOXA9 suppression demonstrated co-down-regulation of a program highly expressed in human MLL- AMLand murine MLL-leukemia stem cells, including HOXA10, MEIS1, PBX3, and MEF2C. We demonstrate that HOXA9 depletion in 17 human AML/ALL cell lines (7 MLL-rearranged, 10 MLL-germline) induces proliferation arrest and apoptosis specifically in MLL-rearranged cells (P = .007). Similarly, assessment of primary AMLs demonstrated that HOXA9 suppression induces apoptosis to a greater extent in MLL-rearranged samples (P = .01). Moreover, mice transplanted with HOXA9-depleted t(4;11) SEMK2 cells revealed a significantly lower leukemia burden, thus identifying a role for HOXA9 in leukemia survival in vivo. Our data indicate an important role for HOXA9 in human MLL-rearranged leukemias and suggest that targeting HOXA9 or downstream programs may be a novel therapeutic option. © 2009 by The American Society of Hematology.

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doi.org/10.1182/blood-2007-09-113597, hdl.handle.net/1765/16099
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Faber, J., Krivtsov, A., Stubbs, M., Wright, R., Davis, T., van den Heuvel-Eibrink, M., … Armstrong, S. (2009). HOXA9 is required for survival in human MLL-rearranged acute leukemias. Blood, 113(11), 2375–2385. doi:10.1182/blood-2007-09-113597