Key Points

  • NUP98-fusion proteins directly regulate leukemia-associated gene expression programs in AML.

  • CDK6 expression is under direct transcriptional control of NUP98-fusions and NUP98-fusion AML is particularly sensitive to CDK6 inhibition.

Fusion proteins involving Nucleoporin 98 (NUP98) are recurrently found in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and are associated with poor prognosis. Lack of mechanistic insight into NUP98-fusion-dependent oncogenic transformation has so far precluded the development of rational targeted therapies. We reasoned that different NUP98-fusion proteins deregulate a common set of transcriptional targets that might be exploitable for therapy. To decipher transcriptional programs controlled by diverse NUP98-fusion proteins we developed mouse models for regulatable expression of NUP98/NSD1, NUP98/JARID1A and NUP98/DDX10. By integrating chromatin occupancy profiles of NUP98-fusion proteins with transcriptome profiling upon acute fusion protein inactivation in vivo, we defined the core set of direct transcriptional targets of NUP98-fusion proteins. Among those, CDK6 was highly expressed in murine and human AML samples. Loss of CDK6 severely attenuated NUP98-fusion-driven leukemogenesis and NUP98-fusion AML was sensitive to pharmacologic CDK6 inhibition in vitro and in vivo. These findings identify CDK6 as a conserved, critical direct target of NUP98-fusion proteins, proposing CDK4/CDK6 inhibitors as a new rational treatment option for AML patients with NUP98-fusions.

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