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Accession IconGSE29639

The leukemia-specific fusion gene ETV6/RUNX1 perturbs distinct key biological functions primarily by gene repression

Organism Icon Homo sapiens
Sample Icon 9 Downloadable Samples
Technology Badge Icon Affymetrix Human Genome U133 Plus 2.0 Array (hgu133plus2)

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Background: ETV6/RUNX1 (E/R) (also known as TEL/AML1) is the most frequent gene fusion in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and also most likely the crucial factor for disease initiation, whereas its role in leukemia propagation and maintenance remains largely elusive. To address this issue we performed a shRNA-mediated knock-down (KD) of the E/R fusion gene and investigated the ensuing consequences on genome-wide gene expression patterns and deducible regulatory functions in two E/R-positive leukemic cell lines. Findings: Microarray analyses identified 777 genes whose expression was substantially altered. Although approximately equal proportions were either up- (KD-UP) or down-regulated (KD-DOWN), the effects on biological processes and pathways differed considerably. The E/R KD-DOWN set was significantly enriched for genes included in the cell activation, immune response, apoptosis, signal transduction and development and differentiation categories, whereas in the E/R KD-UP set only the PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling and hematopoietic stem cells categories became evident. Comparable expression signatures obtained from primary E/R-positive ALL samples underline the relevance of these pathways and molecular functions. We also validated six differentially expressed genes representing the categories stem cell properties, B-cell differentiation, immune response, cell adhesion and DNA damage with RT-qPCR. Conclusion: The results of our analyses provide the first preliminary evidence that the continuous expression of the E/R fusion gene interferes with regular B-cell development by repressing key functions that are necessary under physiological circumstances. E/R may thus constitute also the essential driving force for the propagation and maintenance of the leukemic process irrespective of potential consequences of associated secondary changes. Finally, these findings may also provide a valuable source of potentially attractive therapeutic targets.
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