E2A-PBX1 functions as a coactivator for RUNX1 in acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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E2A, a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor, plays a crucial role in determining tissue-specific cell fate, including differentiation of B cell lineages. In 5% of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the t(1,19) chromosomal translocation specifically targets the E2A gene and produces an oncogenic E2A-PBX1 fusion protein. While previous studies have demonstrated oncogenic functions of E2A-PBX1 in cell and animal models, the E2A-PBX1-enforced cistrome, the E2A-PBX1 interactome, and related mechanisms underlying leukemogenesis remain unclear. Here, by unbiased genomic profiling approaches, we identify the direct target sites of E2A-PBX1 in t(1,19)-positive pre-B ALL cells and show that, compared to normal E2A, E2A-PBX1 preferentially binds to a subset of gene loci co-bound by RUNX1 and gene-activating machineries (p300, MED1, and H3K27 acetylation). Using biochemical analyses, we further document a direct interaction of E2A-PBX1, through a region spanning the PBX1 homeodomain, with RUNX1. Our results also show that E2A-PBX1 binding to gene enhancers is dependent on the RUNX1 interaction, but not the DNA-binding activity harbored within the PBX1 homeodomain of E2A-PBX1. Transcriptome analyses and cell transformation assays further establish a significant RUNX1 requirement for E2A-PBX1-mediated target gene activation and leukemogenesis. Notably, the RUNX1 locus itself is also directly activated by E2A-PBX1, indicating a multilayered interplay between E2A-PBX1 and RUNX1. Collectively, our study provides the first unbiased profiling of the E2A-PBX1 cistrome in pre-B ALL cells and reveals a previously unappreciated pathway in which E2A-PBX1 acts in concert with RUNX1 to enforce transcriptome alterations for the development of pre-B ALL.

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