Introduction: The core-binding factor subunit RUNX1/CBFA2/AML1 (Runt-related transcription factor 1, Core-binding factor alpha 2 subunit, Oncogene AML1) is critical for generation of hematopoietic stem cells during embryogenesis and for normal megakaryopoiesis in adults. RUNX1/CBFA2/AML1 has long been recognized as an oncogene, and is frequently involved in leukemia-associated translocations that create aberrant fusion proteins (e.g., AML1-ETO). Recently, acquired somatic point mutations in the RUNX1/CBFA2/AML1 gene have been described in a subset of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). These point mutations are associated with the loss of normal RUNX1 trans-activation potential and/or altered binding to the non-DNA-binding subunit of core-binding factor, CBFB. Given the importance of core-binding factor in megakaryocytic differentiation and platelet production and the central role of megakaryocytes in the pathophysiology of myelofibrosis with myeloid metaplasia (MMM), and in light of the myelofibrotic phenotype of GATA-1low mice (GATA-1 and RUNX1 are co-expressed and co-operate in megakaryocytic differentiation), we hypothesized that RUNX1 gene mutations might be common in MMM. In addition, we wanted to know whether patients with MDS-associated acquired alpha thalassemia (i.e., ATMDS), a special MDS subgroup with a very high incidence of point mutations in the X-linked ATRX gene, have an especially high incidence of RUNX1 mutations that might account for the more severe hematopoietic defect found in these patients compared with boys with inherited ATR-X syndrome (detailed in
Methods and Results: We analyzed samples from 26 well-characterized patients with MMM and from 52 with MDS (11 RA, 3 RARS, 8 RCMD, 3 RAEB-1, 7 RAEB-2, 2 MDS in transition to AML-M6, 14 atypical/unclassifable MDS, 4 MDS subtype unknown - including 18 with ATMDS) for RUNX1 point mutations by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) followed by subcloning and sequencing of samples exhibiting heteroduplex peaks. We found 5 RUNX1 mutations in MDS patients (9.6%), all of whom had RAEB-2 (4 patients) or a history of treated AML (1 patient), but detected no mutations in MMM patients. All patients with RUNX1 mutations progressed to overt leukemia within 1 year. ATMDS patients did not have an increased risk of RUNX1 point mutations (2/18 patients with mutations, 11.1%) when compared with MDS without thalassemia (3/34 patients, 8.8%; p=0.58). Additionally, 1 MDS patient had a clonally restricted mutation in GATA-1 (c.1066 C>T) (also screened by DHPLC), but this is not predicted to change the GATA-1 amino acid sequence and is likely a random event reflecting the genomic instability characteristic of MDS.
Conclusion:RUNX1 point mutations are common in high-risk MDS, but not in MMM, and that ATMDS patients do not have a risk of RUNX1 mutations in excess of that expected for MDS in general.