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Journal Article

Decitabine Induces Gene Derepression on Monosomic Chromosomes: In Vitro and In Vivo Effects in Adverse-Risk Cytogenetics AML


Bönisch,  Ulrike
Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Max Planck Society;

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Greve, G., Schüler, J., Grüning, B. A., Berberich, B., Stomper, J., Zimmer, D., et al. (2021). Decitabine Induces Gene Derepression on Monosomic Chromosomes: In Vitro and In Vivo Effects in Adverse-Risk Cytogenetics AML. Cancer research: an official organ of the American Association for Cancer Research, 81, 834-846. doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-1430.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-FD46-E
Hypomethylating agents (HMA) have become the backbone of nonintensive acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome (AML/MDS) treatment, also by virtue of their activity in patients with adverse genetics, for example, monosomal karyotypes, often with losses on chromosome 7, 5, or 17. No comparable activity is observed with cytarabine, a cytidine analogue without DNA-hypomethylating properties. As evidence exists for compounding hypermethylation and gene silencing of hemizygous tumor suppressor genes (TSG), we thus hypothesized that this effect may preferentially be reversed by the HMAs decitabine and azacitidine. An unbiased RNA-sequencing approach was developed to interrogate decitabine-induced transcriptome changes in AML cell lines with or without a deletion of chromosomes 7q, 5q or 17p. HMA treatment preferentially upregulated several hemizygous TSG in this genomic region, significantly derepressing endogenous retrovirus (ERV)3–1, with promoter demethylation, enhanced chromatin accessibility, and increased H3K4me3 levels. Decitabine globally reactivated multiple transposable elements, with activation of the dsRNA sensor RIG-I and interferon regulatory factor (IRF)7. Induction of ERV3–1 and RIG-I mRNA was also observed during decitabine treatment in vivo in serially sorted peripheral blood AML blasts. In patient-derived monosomal karyotype AML murine xenografts, decitabine treatment resulted in superior survival rates compared with cytarabine. Collectively, these data demonstrate preferential gene derepression and ERV reactivation in AML with chromosomal deletions, providing a mechanistic explanation that supports the clinical observation of superiority of HMA over cytarabine in this difficult-to-treat patient group.

Significance: These findings unravel the molecular mechanism underlying the intriguing clinical activity of HMAs in AML/MDS patients with chromosome 7 deletions and other monosomal karyotypes.