Background: Chromosomal translocation-induced expression of the chromatin modifying oncofusion protein MLL-AF9 promotes acute myelocytic leukemia (AML). Whereas WNT/β-catenin signaling has previously been shown to support MLL-AF9-driven leukemogenesis, the mechanism underlying this relationship remains unclear. Methods: We used two novel small molecules targeting WNT signaling as well as a genetically modified mouse model that allow targeted deletion of the WNT protein chaperone Wntless (WLS) to evaluate the role of WNT signaling in AML progression. ATAC-seq and transcriptome profiling were deployed to understand the cellular consequences of disrupting a WNT signaling in leukemic initiating cells (LICs). Findings: We identified Six1 to be a WNT-controlled target gene in MLL-AF9-transformed leukemic initiating cells (LICs). MLL-AF9 alters the accessibility of Six1 DNA to the transcriptional effector TCF7L2, a transducer of WNT/β-catenin gene expression changes. Disruption of WNT/SIX1 signaling using inhibitors of the Wnt signaling delays the development of AML. Interpretation: By rendering TCF/LEF-binding elements controlling Six1 accessible to TCF7L2, MLL-AF9 promotes WNT/β-catenin-dependent growth of LICs. Small molecules disrupting WNT/β-catenin signaling block Six1 expression thereby disrupting leukemia driven by MLL fusion proteins.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology