Key Points

  • IRF4 and NF-κB form a feed-forward loop in ATL cells to coordinately regulate gene expressions.

  • IRF4 and NF-κB bindings are enriched in super-enhancers and regulate critical oncogenes including MYC, CCR4 and BIRC3.

Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is a highly aggressive hematological malignancy derived from mature CD4+ T-lymphocytes. Here, we demonstrate the transcriptional regulatory network driven by two oncogenic transcription factors, IRF4 and NF-κB, in ATL cells. Gene expression profiling of primary ATL samples demonstrated that the IRF4 gene was more highly expressed in ATL cells than in normal T-cells. Chromatin-immunoprecipitation-sequencing analysis revealed that IRF4-bound regions were more frequently found in super-enhancers than in typical enhancers. NF-κB was found to co-occupy IRF4-bound regulatory elements and formed a coherent feed-forward loop to coordinately regulate genes involved in T-cell functions and development. Importantly, IRF4 and NF-κB regulated several cancer genes associated with super-enhancers in ATL cells, including MYC, CCR4 and BIRC3. Genetic inhibition of BIRC3 induced growth inhibition in ATL cells, implicating its role as a critical effector molecule downstream of the IRF4-NF-κB transcriptional network.

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