Key Points

  • Trib1 affects Hoxa9 in myeloid leukemogenesis via degradation of C/EBPα and modification of super-enhancers associated with Hoxa9.

  • Erg, a critical target of Trib1 and Hoxa9, is responsive to BRD4 inhibition and plays a key role in leukemogenesis.

The pseudokinase Trib1 functions as a myeloid oncogene that recruits the E3 ubiquitin ligase COP1 to C/EBPa and interacts with MEK1 to enhance ERK phosphorylation. Close genetic effect of Trib1 on Hoxa9 has been observed in myeloid leukemogenesis where Trib1 overexpression significantly accelerates Hoxa9-induced leukemia onset. However, the mechanism underlying how Trib1 functionally modulates Hoxa9 transcription activity is unclear. Herein, we provide evidence that Trib1 modulates Hoxa9-associated super-enhancers. ChIP-seq analysis identified increased histone H3K27Ac signals at super-enhancers of the Erg, Spns2, Rgl1, and Pik3cd loci, as well as increased mRNA expression of these genes. Modification of super-enhancer activity was mostly achieved via the degradation of C/EBPa p42 by Trib1, with a slight contribution from the MEK/ERK pathway. Silencing of Erg abrogated the growth advantage acquired by Trib1 overexpression, indicating that Erg is a critical downstream target of the Trib1/Hoxa9 axis. Moreover, treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells with the BRD4 inhibitor JQ1 showed growth inhibition in a Trib1/Erg-dependent manner both in vitro and in vivo. Upregulation of ERG by TRIB1 was also observed in human AML cell lines, suggesting that Trib1 is a potential therapeutic target of Hoxa9-associated AML. Taken together, our study demonstrates a novel mechanism by which Trib1 modulates chromatin and Hoxa9-driven transcription in myeloid leukemogenesis.

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