MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression and diverse cellular processes. Expression profiling of miRNAs has identified dysregulated miRNAs in many cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, the mechanism for altered miRNA gene expression and the frequency of miRNA gene mutations in AML is largely unknown. We performed next-generation sequencing and high-resolution comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to determine the frequency of miRNA gene mutations in 30 patients with therapy-related AML (t-AML). The sequencing is completed, and final analysis is underway. Herein, we report the results of the CGH. We designed custom CGH arrays for all 835 miRNA genes in miRBase (version 14) and 44 genes involved in miRNA processing. Average probe spacing was 30 bp for miRNA genes and 80 bp for miRNA processing genes and 10 kb flanking regions were interrogated for all genes. In each case, genomic DNA from leukemic blasts was compared with DNA from a skin biopsy from that patient. The median age of the 30 patients with t-AML was 49.2 years (25-77) with M:F ratio 13:17. The mean blast % was 81% (31-100). Consistent with previous reports, many of these patients had an abnormal karyotype with abnormalities of chromosome 5 and 7, 13% and 17% respectively. As expected, CGH analysis confirmed copy number alterations already identified by cytogenetics. In addition, we identified a single t-AML sample (from a male patient) that carried a small (435 kb) hemizygous deletion of miR-223 on chromosome × that was not apparent by cytogenetics. Quantitative PCR of genomic DNA confirmed the loss of the miR-223 gene, and real time RT-PCR demonstrated loss of miR-223 expression. Of note, miR-223 has been implicated in the regulation of granulopoiesis, and mice lacking miR-223 display a myeloproliferative phenotype (Johnnidis, Nature 2008). We screened an additional 27 AML patients for miR-223 expression and identified 3 other samples with miR-223 expression 2 standard deviations below the normal (based on CD34+ cells from healthy donors). No copy number alterations in miR-223 were detected in these patients, suggesting epigenetic silencing of miR-223. Consistent with this possibility, one of these patients carried a t(8;21), which has been shown to epigenetically silence miR-223 (Fazi, Cancer Cell 2007). The mechanism by which miR-223 is silenced in the other two AML samples is under investigation. In summary, cytogenetically silent deletions of miRNA genes are uncommon in t-AML. Loss of miR-223 expression can occur through somatic mutation or epigenetic silencing and is likely to contribute to leukemic transformation in a subset of patients with AML.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.