Taspase1 was identified as the threonine endopeptidase that cleaves MLL for proper Hox gene expression in vitro. To investigate its functions in vivo, we generated Taspase1−/− mice. Taspase1 deficiency results in non−cleavage (nc) of MLL and MLL2 and homeotic transformations. Remarkably, our in vivo studies uncover an unexpected role of Taspase1 in cell cycle. Taspase1−/− animals are smaller in size. Taspase1−/− MEFs exhibit impaired proliferation and acute deletion of Taspase1 leads to a marked reduction of thymocytes. Taspase1 deficiency incurs down−regulation of Cyclin Es, As, and Bs and up−regulation of p16Ink4a. We show that MLL and MLL2 directly target E2Fs for Cyclin expression. The un−cleaved precursor MLL displays a reduced histone H3 methyl transferase activity in vitro. Accordingly, CHIP assays demonstrate a markedly decreased histone H3 K4 tri−methylation at Cyclin E1 and E2 genes in Taspase1−/− cells. Furthermore, MLLnc/nc;2nc/nc MEFs are also impaired in proliferation. Our data are consistent with a model in which precursor MLLs, activated by Taspase1, target to Cyclins through E2Fs to methylate histone H3 at K4, leading to activation. Lastly, Taspase1−/− cells are resistant to oncogenic transformation and Taspase1 is over−expressed in many cancer cell lines. Thus, Taspase1 may serve as a target for cancer therapeutics.

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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