Protein kinase C Θ (PKC-Θ) is an important signaling molecule and regulates platelet responses to activation including aggregation and secretion. In a patient with lifelong thrombocytopenia, impaired platelet aggregation and secretion, we have shown (Gabbeta et al 1996, Blood 87:1368–1376) that phosphorylation of pleckstrin (a PKC substrate) and myosin light chain (MLC) is impaired along with diminished GPIIb-IIIa activation. Platelet protein and mRNA levels of PKC-Θ were decreased with normal levels of other PKC isozymes. These findings were associated with a heterozygous nonsense mutation in transcription factor RUNX1 (also known as CBFA2 or AML1) (Sun et al 2004, Blood 103:948–54). RUNX1 is transcription factor that plays a major role in megakaryopoiesis, megakaryocytic maturation, and platelet production. Haplodeficiency of RUNX1 has been associated with familial thrombocytopenia, impaired megakaryopoiesis, impaired platelet function and predisposition to acute myeloid leukemia. Because of the important role of PKC-Θ in platelet activation and of RUNX1 in hematopoiesis, we addressed the hypothesis that PKC-Θ is a direct transcriptional target of RUNX1. Studies were performed using human erythroleukemia (HEL) cells treated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) for 24 h to induce megakaryocytic transformation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay using anti-RUNX1 antibody revealed RUNX1 binding to chromatin in the PKC-Θ 5’ upstream region −1225/−1056 bp from ATG codon. This region includes a RUNX1 consensus binding site ACCGCA at −1081/−1076 bp identified by TFSEARCH. We performed electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) using 20-mer probe −1088/−1069 containing the RUNX1 site and nuclear extracts from PMA-treated HEL cells. Protein binding to the probe was observed, which was competed by excess unlabelled probe, and anti-RUNX1 antibody inhibited this binding, indicating that RUNX1 was involved in the DNA binding. Moreover, protein binding to the wild type probe was not competed by an oligo with 4 nucleotides deleted from the RUNX1 consensus site. To determine the functional relevance of RUNX1 binding to PKC-Θ, transient transfections were performed in HEL cells with luciferase reporter constructs. The full length construct −1085/−206 showed ~14-fold activity compared to empty vector. A mutant construct with deletion of the RUNX1 site resulted in a ~50% decrease in activity indicating that the site was functional. siRNA-mediated knockdown of RUNX1 in HEL cells was associated with a decrease in both RUNX1 and PKC-Θ protein.

Conclusion: These results and our findings in the patient provide the first evidence that PKC-Θ gene transcription in the megakaryocyte/platelet is regulated by RUNX1. They provide a cogent mechanism for the platelet PKC-Θ downregulation associated with RUNX1 haplodeficiency in our patient. RUNX1 dysregulation of PKC-Θ in megakaryocytic cells is an important aspect of the abnormal platelet function and production associated with human RUNX1 mutations.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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