First Thesis Advisor
Gary S. Stein, Ph.D.
Hematopoiesis, Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit, Leukemia
Runx1 is a master regulator of hematopoiesis, required for the initiation of definitive hematopoiesis in the embryo and essential for appropriate differentiation of many hematopoietic lineages in the adult. The roles of Runx1 in normal hematopoiesis are juxtaposed with the high frequency of Runx1 mutations and translocations in leukemia. Leukemia associated Runx1 mutations that retain DNA-binding ability have truncations or frame shifts that lose C-terminal domains. These domains are important for subnuclear localization of Runx1 and protein interactions with co-factors. The majority of leukemia associated Runx1 translocations also replace the C-terminus of Runx1 with chimeric fusion proteins. The common loss of Runx1 C-terminal domains in hematopoietic diseases suggests a possible common mechanism. We developed a panel of mutations to test the functions of these domains in vitro, and then developed mouse models to examine the consequences of losing Runx1 C-terminal domains on hematopoietic development and leukemogenesis in vivo.
We previously observed that overexpression of a subnuclear targeting defective mutant of Runx1 in a myeloid progenitor cell line blocks differentiation. Gene expression analysis before differentiation was initiated revealed that the mutant Runx1 was already deregulating genes important for maturation. Furthermore, promoters of the suppressed genes were enriched for binding sites of known Runx1 co-factors, indicating a non-DNA-binding role for the mutant Runx1.
To investigate the in vivo function of Runx1 C-terminal domains, we generated two knock-in mouse models; a C-terminal truncation, Runx1Q307X, and a point mutant in the subnuclear targeting domain, Runx1 HTY350-352AAA . Embryos homozygous for Runx1 Q307X phenocopy a complete Runx1 null and die in utero from central nervous system hemorrhage and lack of definitive hematopoiesis. Embryos homozygous for the point mutation Runx1HTY350-352AAA bypass embryonic lethality, but have hypomorphic Runx1 function. Runx1HTY350-352AAA results in defective growth control of hematopoietic progenitors, deregulation of B-lymphoid and myeloid lineages, as well as maturation delays in megakaryocytic and erythroid development.
Runx1 localizes to subnuclear domains to scaffold regulatory machinery for control of gene expression. This work supports the role of transcription factors interacting with nuclear architecture for greater biological control, and shows how even subtle alterations in that ability could have profound effects on normal biological function and gene regulation.
Dowdy, CR. Runx1 C-terminal Domains During Hematopoietic Development and Leukemogenesis: A Dissertation. (2012). University of Massachusetts Medical School. GSBS Dissertations and Theses. Paper 604. DOI: 10.13028/2mya-hk98. https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/gsbs_diss/604
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