Research Papers:

PAF1 complex interactions with SETDB1 mediate promoter H3K9 methylation and transcriptional repression of Hoxa9 and Meis1 in acute myeloid leukemia

James Ropa, Nirmalya Saha, Zhiling Chen, Justin Serio, Wei Chen, Dattatreya Mellacheruvu, Lili Zhao, Venkatesha Basrur, Alexey I. Nesvizhskii and Andrew G. Muntean _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:22123-22136. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25204

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James Ropa1,2, Nirmalya Saha1, Zhiling Chen1, Justin Serio1, Wei Chen1, Dattatreya Mellacheruvu2, Lili Zhao3, Venkatesha Basrur1, Alexey I. Nesvizhskii1,2 and Andrew G. Muntean1

1Department of Pathology and The University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

2Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

3Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Correspondence to:

Andrew G. Muntean, email: [email protected]

Keywords: polymerase associated factor complex; H3K9 methyltransferase; protein-protein interaction; transcription; leukemia

Received: December 26, 2017     Accepted: April 04, 2018     Published: April 24, 2018


The Polymerase Associated Factor 1 complex (PAF1c) is an epigenetic co-modifying complex that directly contacts RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) and several epigenetic regulating proteins. Mutations, overexpression and loss of expression of subunits of the PAF1c are observed in various forms of cancer suggesting proper regulation is needed for cellular development. However, the biochemical interactions with the PAF1c that allow dynamic gene regulation are unclear. We and others have shown that the PAF1c makes a direct interaction with MLL fusion proteins, which are potent oncogenic drivers of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This interaction is critical for the maintenance of MLL translocation driven AML by targeting MLL fusion proteins to the target genes Meis1 and Hoxa9. Here, we use a proteomics approach to identify protein-protein interactions with the PAF1c subunit CDC73 that regulate the function of the PAF1c. We identified a novel interaction with a histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) methyltransferase protein, SETDB1. This interaction is stabilized with a mutant CDC73 that is incapable of supporting AML cell growth. Importantly, transcription of Meis1 and Hoxa9 is reduced and promoter H3K9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) increased by overexpression of SETDB1 or stabilization of the PAF1c-SETDB1 interaction in AML cells. These findings were corroborated in human AML patients where increased SETDB1 expression was associated with reduced HOXA9 and MEIS1. To our knowledge, this is the first proteomics approach to search for CDC73 protein-protein interactions in AML, and demonstrates that the PAF1c may play a role in H3K9me3-mediated transcriptional repression in AML.

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